bad interviewers and weird candidates — unburden yourself here!

We hear lots of bad interview stories here — like the interviewer who asked to look inside a candidate’s purse or the interviewer who got offended when asked when the job was open  — as well as stories about awful candidate moves, like the guy who sent his interviewer a framed photo of himself (and cake!) and the guy who thought being intentionally late was a good interview strategy.

Let’s add to our list. I want to hear your stories about your worst interviewers … as well as your stories about bizarre candidate actions if you’re on the hiring side of things.

Hold no detail back.

{ 882 comments… read them below }

  1. Lydia*

    This is only mild on the weird scale but it did just happen this week, I spent the whole interview calling the candidate by her first name, introduced her to a team member to have a chat, and then picked her back up to show her out. I thanked her for her time, using her first name again, and at -that- point she said ‘um this is embarrassing but while that is legally my first name, I’m known as [middle name]’.

    The bizarre bit is that everything from her, including her personal email address, was badged with her ‘legal’ first name…

    1. Mike C.*

      I’ll bet there’s some weirdness in the past that’s come up because of the use of the middle rather than the first name. Anyone who goes by their middle name care to confirm/deny?

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve never had an issue with it. Most of my family goes by their middle names and I haven’t know anyone to have an issue with it either. In fact I work with half a dozen people who do this also – it’s common enough that interviewers take it in stride.

        The only time it’s a PITA is when you have to explain to the clerk matching the credit card against ID that it’s your middle name. But that’s a sentence – so small pita.

        My resume, email, all that has the name I go by and I furnish the whole thing for background checks and official paperwork.

        The only other time it’s been an issue is in the doctor’s office because it’s the only place on the planet that uses my legal first name and it always takes me a while to recognize they are talking to me.

        1. jmkenrick*

          My Mom goes by her middle name, and I didn’t even realize until I was in highschool! I just thought her middle name was her first name and visa-versa. #baddaughter

          1. Chinook*

            jmkenrick – if you are a bad daughter, then so am I. But, if everyone calls me by my first name, then it logically follows that the name everyone calls my mother is her first name, right?

            1. Liz in a library*

              If it makes you guys feel any better…I found out that my grandmother’s first name was actually the nickname we call her instead of a longer version of that name (think Jenny instead of Jennifer). I grew up close to her and am in fact one of her primary caregivers now. When did I figure it out? Last month…

              1. Claire*

                For years I thought “bronisława” was the Polish word for “grandma”, until I took Polish in college. Turns out my father’s grandmother’s name was Bronisława, and whenever she came up in conversation, everyone used her first name. I still don’t know why, though…

          2. Anna*

            My aunt goes by her middle name and so do my sister and husband. My husband signs everything with first initial, middle name. It’s too bad, though, because he hates his middle name. :)

        2. gr8 candidate*

          Early on I realized I needed to inform the person answering the phone and receiving mail of my first name. I could always tell that it was either my Mother or Human Resources calling if the receptionist buzzed in with a call for me using my first name.

          I am always super respectful of people’s names – and the spelling of their names – because it is important to who they are. My middle name is a variant spelling, though a simple variant I have seen several times. When making a call, I say “My name is Middle Last. Is So Andso available?” Leaving a message on voice mail or with another person I say “I am going to spell my name for you…” and do so, slowly and distinctly. Invariably correspondence, emails, nametags, reservations, and certificates are misspelled. My name is 6 characters long. People with familial names (especially Germanic, Welsh, Irish, or those clever distinctive spellings of popular childrens’ names) don’t usually have this problem. Drives me NUTS.

      2. JMegan*

        That is weird! I’m a middle-name-person, but the only place my first name appears is on official documents (and my username on the internet!) Other than that, everyone calls me Megan – my email address, my resume, and certainly the way I introduce myself to employers, is by the name I actually use.

        My guess is that she didn’t want to appear rude by correcting the interviewer. But of course she only made things worse for herself by not speaking up. Not only did she have to listen to the OP call her by the wrong name for an hour or so, but she also raised the question of “why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

      3. Kelly O*

        Both my parents went by their middle names, but only legal documents used their legal first names. Every email I’ve ever seen from my mom say “Jo” and not “Willa” – her checks, work ID cards, everything.

        My dad was the same way, everything he had that was not a driver’s license or legal document had his middle name listed. He never really did the email thing, but I would have assumed he would use his name the same way he always did.

        I’d think if you go by a middle name, then you would just use it. (Although I will add that this is why my parents were so adamant about naming us with the first name we’d go by, and when I was pregnant, my mom reminded me to give the baby a first name we wanted to use, and not go by a middle name, because it can be a hassle.)

      4. Chinook*

        I don’t go by my middle name but my mother does. It is a cultural thing where so many people had the first name Marie or Joseph that it was a default to go either two names at once (Marie DesNeiges) or middle name (Desneiges – literally “of the snow”).

        But, then again, my mother never uses the “Marie” part except for legal and governmetn documents.

        1. Jamie*

          In doing genealogy research I ran across this so many times going back in my family – there is a old Germanic custom of giving all the children the same first name and different middle names (by which they are known) because if the angel of death comes to take one of the children he will get confused and leave without taking anyone.

          It does make legal records from the 1700’s and before hard to parse out when you have 10 brothers all names Johann SomethingElse …and kind of funny in that it would be one dopey angel of death to be fooled by such a simple and overly used ruse!

          And I was born in a major snow storm and am not furious my parents didn’t name me “of the snow.” That’s beautiful.

          1. annie*

            This is true in some of my Irish family too – kids have the same first name, different middle names, and go by the middle names. I didn’t know my grandmother’s actual first name until I was a teenager!

            1. Artemesia*

              Interesting. I had never heard of these traditions and since going by the middle name e.g. J. Rogers Smithson or whatever appears quite pretentious, did not understand why families commonly use middle names. Why not name the kid what you hope to call him or her? I can see if it is common in a cultural group that people might follow the tradition. I do have two sisters in law named Mary, but in spite of a Germanic and Irish background, had never heard of this middle name thing as being traditional. (It was not true of the families I know when I lived in Germany for a year either. The religious names like Mary and Joseph usually were the middle names e.g. Reiner Maria Rilke

          2. Chinook*

            “Marie des Neiges” fully translates to “Mary of the Snow” which, in my mind, is the perfect Quebecois/Canadian name and belongs to my late great aunt (I couldn’t make that one up and have it believed). It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that everyone called her “of the Snow” which is truly illogical but poetic.

              1. Jamie*

                No – but if this day gets any weirder I will need some….I wonder if Tiger Direct stocks any fire breathers with next day delivery…

          3. JoAnna*

            I didn’t realize that my great-grandmother went by her middle name and not her first name until I saw her gravestone for the first time (she died when I was 10). I asked my mother why Great-Grandma’s headstone said “N. Hazel Lastname” and my mother explained that her first name had been Nellie, but she hated it and always went by Hazel.

            1. Jessica (the celt)*

              My grandmother was the same way. She absolutely hated her first name, so she always went by her middle name. I don’t know when I first realized it, but I was always asking people what their name meant and why they were named something (I love asking people personal history stories) — or for parents, why they named their kids something, so I do know I asked her early on what her name meant and assume she told me about both of them at that time. I love learning people’s middle names, just to see what the sounds “taste” like together.

          4. Julie*

            When I was a kid I found out that my dad’s mother went by a nickname that is not even close to her first or middle name. My dad’s father went by his middle name. My mom’s father went by his first name, but her mother went by her middle name. I think it’s because her first name was a family name…??? I guess it was a “thing” for people born at the beginning of the 20th century (although the grandfather who went by his first name was born in 1897, so who knows).

          5. Bea W*

            I was told in a junior high social studies class during a study of the Middle East that boys born to Arabic Muslim families are named Mohammed, but then use a second name, because everyone is named Mohammed. I am not sure if this is true. I don’t know many Arab men.

        2. the gold digger*

          I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. A gajillion of the women I worked with were named “Maria” plus a second name. There was Maria Eugenia, Maria Gracia, Maria Susana, etc, etc.

          I have a friend from Mexico whose son and daughter are named “Jose Maria” and “Maria Jose.”

      5. Escritora*

        My mother goes by her middle name, my father went by his middle name in his youth. To his relatives, he’s still Middle Name. My mother has a hilarious story about meeting his family for the first time and referring to him by his first name. They were confused, because they never used his first name. His brother sometimes used my father’s first name, and not his own first name, because he wanted a middle name and didn’t have one. Long story.

        The middle name phenomenon is so common to my family that in a fit of exasperation I asked my grandmother point blank if her first name is what I always thought it was (this was seconds after I discovered Aunt D is actually Aunt L, and D is her middle name). None of them are concealing shenanigans, it’s just some of them (like my mother), are named for direct descent relatives whose names are too old to suit any one born now. Imagine you are named for your Grandma Hortense or Grandpa Elmer. Now suppose your middle name was Elizabeth or Michael. Guess which one you use?

        1. Clueless granddaughter.*

          I found out my grandmother went by her middle name as an adult. I took her to the ER and the nurse came in and said “so, Eva can you tell me what’s going on”. I told her she was in the wrong room! She looked at her papers and said “is she not Eva Gladys last name?” She was but I didn’t know that.

        2. tcookson*

          We always called my brother by his middle name, but when he got into high school he started wanting to be called by his first name. We all thought it was just a phase, so we kept calling him by his middle name. So now, he’s a grown, married Marine whom everyone else in the whole entire world calls Firstname, and we’re the only ones who call him Middlename. It’s kind of weird to talk about him to his wife and hear her call him Firstname. I guess we could all adopt that practice after lo these 30 years . . .

        3. Bea W*

          My father goes by his first name outside of the family, but his family call him by his middle name, as does his most recent wife. I always introduced him by his first name, because despite hearing his middle name amongst extended family, I knew his first name was one thing and assumed that was the right one to call him if not using “Dad”. I thought what family were calling him was a nickname, like we all had unrelated nicknames as kids. It was actually his middle name.

          I assume this was to differentiate him from his father and his grandfather. I have found some of my ancestors did have this tradition in general, and others used it when a child had the same name as a parent.

          My grandmother was given with 3 names at birth, and then confirmation in Catholicism added a 4th. If you asked her her full name she would recite First Name, 2nd Name, 3rd Name, 4th Name, Last Name, but legally in the US she went by Americanized First Name, 2nd Name, Last Name. I have all 4 names noted on my family tree, as she had recited them to me when I was a kid. :)

      6. Anonymous*

        i used to go by my middle name but a lot people would get offended when they found out that it wasn’t actually my first name. They would say “that’s so strange!” or other rude remarks. now i just go by my first name professionally and with strangers. my family & close friends use my middle name.

      7. Liane*

        My husband uses his middle name. His dad’s legal first name is usually a nickname for my husband’s first name. (Bobby and Robert) Hubs uses the legal name on legal stuff, but his business cards & badge have the middle name. His signature is “R. Middle Doe.”
        The only time it’s been a problem is after his parents died. The executor changed their address to her law office address. My in-laws’ address was on the same street as ours, with just a couple digits’ difference in the house numbers. Between the close names and numbers, it was understandable the USPS got our names in the address change. But we couldn’t get it changed back. If you try to change a business address to a residential system, it gets flagged and won’t work. Even when we sent out individual changes, the USPS computers would just forward it to the executor’s office.
        Fortunately, the office would put everything of ours in a big envelope and mail it on, and the admin was cool if you asked her to check & see if, say, the DMV renewal was there. Now that we’ve got a brand new address in a different (local) zip things are getting better–2 years later.

      8. Brton3*

        People need to commit. If your name is John and you universally go by Kurt, your email address really should not be John.Smith@email. Your resume should not have “JOHN SMITH” in bold letters at the top.

        1. Julie K*

          I used to think that you should put your legal name on your resume. After doing that once, I will never do it again. I don’t go by my legal name, and it was a big hassle getting everything, including email address, changed to the name I go by. The interviewers don’t need to know my legal first name, and if I end up working someplace, I give HR all of the official information they need.

          1. Bea W*

            I’ve seen people do it different ways, with their legal first and middle name, or the first initial then middle name. I have a co-worker who has a ridiculously long hard to pronounce legal name and a name she goes by which is not similar, and I’m not sure it’s an actual legal middle name. She writes First Name (Preferred Name) Last Name.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Was she young? I’ve noticed that a lot of young, inexperienced candidates don’t realize they can just put the name they go by on their resume (including Katie vs Katherine, etc.).

      1. Jamie*

        This! I will call people by the name they use when introducing themselves to me. In this case a cover letter is an introduction so if it’s signed Katherine or Alexander that’s how I’ll address you…because I assume you know better than I do what you’d like to be called.

        I promise you if your resume says Alex but you fill out a form with your legal name of Alexander for a background check no one will be up in arms about the lies you tell. :)

        It’s weird when you’ve been talking to someone for a couple of hours and it turns out you’ve been calling them something they usually hear only from their mother and the DMV.

      2. Sarah*

        I go by a double last name with a space in between. My current boss and prospective employers almost never use my full last name even though I ALWAYS introduce myself as such. I think they find it too hard and give up.

        1. Editor*

          This. I use an unhyphenated double last name for reasons that were outside my control. The change happened soon enough after I got married that that just became my legal name.

          I now don’t care if some place puts in a hyphen if it means they don’t lose my records. But there are some people who consistently forget the second part of the surname, and at places where they ask for my last name and I say “My last name is Myname Hisname,” the person will often say they can’t find my records under Hisname. So then I have to say, Ï said my last name is Myname Hisname — it is two words. Look under Myname.”

          I lived in a southern state for almost a decade, and the second time they renewed my license they insisted my last name couldn’t be Myname Hisname because in that state when a woman married her maiden name became her middle name. Because there was no hyphen, I had to pay to get a judge’s order to show my last name was as I said, even though it was correct on my other documents including my passport. When I finally moved out of that state back into the northeast, I got my name back. The clerk at Northeastern State DMV claimed she was no feminist, but she was horrified by my story and was happy to welcome me “back to civilization.”

          Half my former employers hyphenated my name because they couldn’t handle any other format. I’ve always been baffled by this problem, because there are some Hispanic naming traditions that include unhyphenated compound surnames.

          If software tracks the names of people, it should be set up to handle more than one or two words in the surname field. And these days, with more people giving kids two middle names, the software should be able to handle that, too.

          1. Jessica (the celt)*

            I’ve always been baffled by this problem, because there are some Hispanic naming traditions that include unhyphenated compound surnames.

            EXACTLY!

          2. Another Anonymous*

            And I think the “rule” about naming is from an individual employee of the DMV, not a legal thing. I had a similar problem and was told my maiden name could not be used as my middle name when I moved to a midwestern plains state! Well, the social security administration and three other states before that did not have any problem with my name…so I assumed the DMV employee was just misinformed/wrong. I had to insist, weirdly, on using what was/is my currently legal name on my license. Hmm.

            1. JC*

              Imagine how strange everyone thought it was when my husband of one month and I went to get our licenses. I had legally changed my maiden name to my middle name (but kept my actual middle name; I don’t want to be cheated out of my name). My husband added my last name as a middle name. No one wanted to believe that HE was changing his name. Apparently only the womenfolk should do it. The funniest thing is that his mother, who is very much a feminist and for whom I have a lot of respect, didn’t like the idea of him changing his name when we first told her about it. It took a fair amount of insisting, but we both legally have four names now.

              We didn’t want to hyphenate because my maiden name was long and complicated, and his last name is long, and we don’t want to sic that on a child.

        2. Jessica (the celt)*

          Amen. I send emails where my signature lays out my name: Jessica I. Mine His. I put the middle initial in there so people get that the two ending names are my actual last name. I work at a school, so I might sign off as Mrs. Mine His to an email that is also going to students as well as parents. I get emails right back as Jessica His or Mrs. His or Ms. His or even Mrs. Mine. My boss is hyphenated and NEVER has these issues, but her last names aren’t very common separately either (both of my last names are fairly common as last names), so I think that also has something to do with it. My husband has the same last name, and we have the issue of having prescriptions to Him Minehis, and no one can figure out our last name because it ends up looking weird, all smooshed together. I always introduce myself as Jessica Mine His, and then the person will turn around and introduce me to someone else within five minutes as Jessica His. Grrrrr. Frustrating. (And it’s getting more and more common, as I have four other coworkers who have married with both partners taking both last names. None of us knew the others when we got married and all started working here quite a while after our marriages anyway, so I’m assuming that it’s getting pretty common.)

          Anyway, I completely feel your pain. :(

          1. Artemesia*

            WE hyphenated our kids (each kept our own name) We raised our kids in the south when this was very unusual (and suspicious and probably ungodly) It was not uncommon for people to call my daughter by her first and my last name as if it were a southern first middle e.g. Billy Bob. but in this case Susan Dudley rather than recognizing her last name as Dudley-Smith. It is fairly common in the south to give the mother’s name as a middle name and then to use it in this fashion. so calling the kid Susan Dudley SMith and then having her go by Susan Dudley would have been perfectly lovely — but having her be Susan Dudley-Smith — big giant hassle.

      3. Katie*

        This was me. When I first came out of college I thought I had to my full name “Kathryn” for everything. At my first professional job when I was setting up my email I remember really thinking about whether I should put “Kathryn” or “Katie”.

        Although I do think I let interviewers know they could call me Katie right away in interviews. Just like when you’re meeting someone, “I go by Katie.”

      4. Anonymous*

        This was me too! I thought I had to put Margaret on my resume and then I’d get business cards and an email that said “Margaret” and I’d be bummed. It was freeing to realize I could be a Professional Maggie!

    3. tangoecho5*

      I don’t get why this candidate even brought it up. If she applied and gave her first name on all her documents, why would anyone assume to ask her if she prefers to be called by a different name when meeting her in person? It would be her responsibility to speak up at the start of the interview and say something like “please call me by the name I go by – Mary”. And since she didn’t, she shouldn’t have done so at the end of the interview process.

    4. Marmite*

      I go by a nickname that is a shortened version of my full name but not a common name. I put my name on application forms as Full Name (Known As Name) and I sign the form and any e-mails with my nickname. My CV also has my nickname only, not the full legal name and I sign cover letters that way.

      Yet, I still, frequently, get HR reps, hiring managers, interviewers etc. referring to me by my full legal name. I’ll send an e-mail signed Bob and they’ll send a reply saying Hello Robert. I wonder if part of it may be that I have an obviously female full name but the nickname sounds male.

      1. patchinko*

        my mom is named jenny, just jenny. that is her full legal first name. and people call her “jennifer” all the time.

        personally, i just don’t get why people don’t just address people by the names they introduce themselves with.

        1. Kathryn T.*

          Me either. I introduce myself as “Kathryn,” because that is my name, and the number of people who shake my hand and say “Pleased to meet you, Kathy!” (or Katie) is truly remarkable.

        2. Felicia*

          My sister’s name is Tori. It’s not short for anything, just Tori. She gets called Victoria all the time. Once she even got called Vicky.

    5. Anon*

      I actually go by a nickname version of my middle name (thanks mom and dad!). I put the name I go by on my resume, but when filling out a job app I usually put my legal first name in the “first name” box since that’s what it is. If there is a “goes by” spot I fill that in with the name I go by.

      It actually causes me a lot of stress and drama in my life, but I have learned to use it as a barometer – if I fill out the “goes by” box but still get called by my legal first name, I immediately correct them. But if they continue to use legal first name, maybe I don’t want to work there (or continue to do business with them).

      When I first started work where I am now, I was in a front line position without access to company email. After I got promoted, IT just automatically created me an email address using my legal first name. Well, I still signed my email with the name I go by. This really confused everyone, to the point where I had people asking me if there were two people in my department with my last name and if we were sisters? I finally threw in the towel when HR replied to an email I had sent accusing me of using another employee’s email because I had signed it with a different first name. IT changed my email address to the name I go by but they were still snarky with me about it.

      I also have the name I go by on my personal checks, and one time when setting up a bank account and sent in a voided check the bank sent me a letter saying they would need permission from Legal First Name to set up the account for Name I Go By and I wrote back to let them know it’s just me! There is only one of me and I give myself permission to set up this account.

      Lesson learned – never give your child one name and then call them something else!

      1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

        The barometer test.
        I remember this from when I was in school and kind of touchy about teachers both mispronouncing my name (I spell it the “normal”/phonetic way for posts) and IGNORING ME when I tried to respond because they thought the name belonged to a boy.

        I’ve switched attitudes to “as long as I know who you mean” and trying to put others at ease. Except one receptionist who had me pause to explicitly spell out my name before leaving her office. She promptly followed my visit with a letter to “Michelle”–That Was Annoying.

        1. Jessica (the celt)*

          Oh! I’ll bet you have the spelling one of my good friends gave her first daughter as a middle name. I absolutely love it and knew how to pronounce it without prompting, but she has an accent on one of the letters as well.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Well. . .unless you try to avoid this, by say, naming your child JAMIE when you intend to call him JAMIE, and people assume it’s a nickname for James.

        1. Jamie*

          Ironically female Jamie’s get nicknames “James.” Which is cute in an Ira a la Mad About You kinda way…but I don’t like when strangers do it. You need to be at least a tertiary friend to get away with playing with ones name, imo.

          1. Waerloga*

            Scots can call James Jaime, the other option is Hamish.

            Can cause problems at work when I’m known as James, but when mother called looking for Hamish… Better than Wee Jaimie, but still confusing to our poor lab staff…

            And her family is worse! Sometimes I think they’re all in a witness protection program…She is called Chick (real name of Audrey), her uncles were Shorty, Slick, Slim, Peg (grandmother, but not a Margaret ), Tine (Aunt, but not a xxxxtine name)… You would think they were involved in nefarious schemes (lol).

            Take care

            W

        2. Min*

          My brother has the same problem with the shortened legal name issue. His name is Jay and he often gets people assuming it’s short for Jason or James.

          On the other end of the spectrum, my parents named me a longer name with no intention of ever calling me anything other than the nickname. (Think Katherine vs Katie) I don’t even answer to my legal name, it never occurs to me to do so!

    6. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

      People–this must mean me–do silly things when they’re nervous!

    7. UK HR Bod*

      Also only mildly weird, but – I got two CVs mixed up once. I happily called the candidate by the wrong name, introduced her to the line manager by the wrong name… and finally, we asked her about something on her CV and she says ‘I never worked there’ – so I show her the CV, and she tells me it’s not hers. Now, I know I shouldn’t have mixed them up, but really, wouldn’t you have said? They were quite different names too: Sarah / Elizabeth rather than Sarah / Sara, which might have been a bit more understandable.

    8. Vicki*

      I used to put “Victoria” on my resume (because I was, at the time, under the impression that resumes should use my “formal, legal, name”. But I got tired of saying “Vicki, please” to everyone I was introduced to.

      Then I discovered that it was OK to put Vicki on my resume! (and, thank you, on my name badge at work too!)

    9. 4himarks*

      I have a last name that is also a common first name. At our organization, Outlook is configured to display names as LastName, FirstName. Even people who know me well sometimes reply to an email from me by addressing me by my last name. When I was in school, the teacher invariably called me by my last name on the first day. My Dad used to have a radio show, and would sign off with “This is First Middle Last with today’s national report…” and he would get fan mail asking to hear more from “that guy with 3 first names.”

  2. excruiter*

    I once had a candidate show up for her interview directly from the pool. She still had on a wet bikini under a super short, strapless romper thing and flip flops. Her hair was still wet. The interview had been scheduled for over a week…

    I also had more than one candidate tell me that they needed to wait a few weeks to take their drug screens. I’m not a fan of mandatory drug screens but our organization required them.

    1. Jamie*

      Ahh – the I’ll take your drug screen later deal…hate that.

      I am not a fan either but it’s required and it’s IN OUR FREAKING ADS that you must be able to pass a mandatory drug screen.

      If it’s in the ad there’s really no reason to be shocked when it comes up.

      1. excruiter*

        It was an industrial staffing company, any kind of industrial work is guaranteed to require a drug screen. A drug screen was definitely not a surprise!

        It was amazing how many were really shocked that they would have to actually pass the screen as well.

        1. bearcat*

          Haha! Do people really think that companies spend money on drug testing but the results don’t matter? Or do they think that it’s just points getting taken off your final score? “I aced the written assignment and the interview, therefore failing the drug test won’t matter.”

          Boggles the mind…

          1. Cruella Da Boss*

            I had a candidate a few years back that was fabulous, perfect fit for the department and the company.

            Then they faild the drug screen.

            Goodbye perfect candidate =(

              1. bob*

                Well no. And I know how you feel about it but…

                I can think of several industries where you don’t want employees showing up under the influence to do their jobs. I know of a case where a small, local ambulance service had a guy showing up for work after a night of cocaine, drinking, etc. because they didn’t have a policy in place and he could get away with showing up under the influence. I don’t need a partner working under the influence of anything but coffee and I SURE don’t need the EMT or Medic who is taking care of me making a mistake with a drug dosage that could kill me.

                Same thing applies to some industrial operations with heavy equipment, dangerous chemicals, etc.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I can respect that argument (although I’d argue that performance tests are better for those jobs, because they’ll detect impairment for ANY reason, including fatigue, prescription drugs, alcohol use, etc.), but the majority of jobs that drug test don’t have public safety implications.

                2. Jake*

                  This is just silly. Drug screens don’t tell you if someone is going to come to work high, just if they’ve used drugs in the last N days/weeks/months. If a test showed you that a person had consumed alcohol in the last five weeks would you assume they were likely to come to work drunk? How many of your colleagues do you think are teetotalers?

                3. AAA*

                  I am a hiring manager of EMT/Ambulance Operators. The position requires a drug screen (and extensive background check). I’m with Alison though. Generally, I do not care what someone does in their off-hours, as long as it doesn’t affect their work performance and isn’t something that will potentially harm others. Marijuana possession charge in your background? I don’t care. DUI in your background? Shows a lack of judgement and a willingness to allow your actions to compromise public safety.

              2. Observer*

                I hear your argument. But, here I think there is a bigger issue. Generally speaking, these things are not a secret. Why show up to an interview where this might come up, when you are not ready to take the test? If you really want the job, then stay away from whatever it is for long enough to not come up positive. If you can’t that’s a huge red flag.

              3. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut*

                +1000! If the drug screening privacy invasion actually produced better candidates/better workers, I might possibly get on board (but I doubt it – I work, you pay me – we have a fair deal so my personal life is NONE of your business!) but it truly does not. Sad but true.

          2. SarahMarie*

            With my company, it depends on the position. For individuals who will be driving a company vehicle we do drug testing. I believe it has something to do with our insurance and liability….

        2. Kathryn T.*

          To be fair, not all employers will fail you for all drug use. I know there are plenty of places who will gladly accept an applicant with a positive marijuana screen, or might not even test for it — they’re looking for cocaine, heroin, or meth.

          1. bearcat*

            Interesting…but doesn’t it seem like something they should inform you about? We test for X and Y but not Z. Seems like you would lose qualified candidates if you didn’t. I would never take a drug test I knew I would fail.

            1. WWWONKA*

              We had a temp that was doing such a good job that we told him we would interview him in a month and most likely he would get hired. He failed the drug test.

          1. anon-2*

            Be careful with drug screening. Some of them come up with false positives …

            If it’s done in a lab by professionals – you’re good.
            If it’s done in a backroom with one of the little kits sold at drugstores — that’s NOT good.

    2. Tina Career Counselor*

      A bathing suit?! Was she applying for a lifeguard position? That definitely ranks in my “Who does that?” list.

      1. RLS*

        There was one time I was required to interview soaking wet in a swimsuit. But it was actually for an aquatics position, lol.

        The things I’ve seen people wear for interviews blows my mind. Really?!

        1. excruiter*

          It became petty clear that she was not really interested in working. She answered every question by rolling her eyes and looking bored while saying the very least she could. I ended the interview when she pulled out her phone and started texting.

          Poor interviews were par for the course in that industry, unfortunately. Temp, no skill industrial work does not attract many eager candidates.

          1. nyxalinth*

            I think also she might have been, ahem, coaxed by her parents into looking for work. doing it like this would mean she could do it and still claim no one would hire her.

          2. Tracy*

            I wonder if she was receiving benefits of some sort and in order to keep receiving them had to document x number of interviews?

    3. SarahMarie*

      I had a candidate show up in flip flops. I always give candidates a tour as part of the interview (very large building) because it makes the walk from the front desk to my office less boring. Anyway, all I could hear was the flip flop “smacking” noise non-stop during the tour. It was so distracting.

      1. Niki*

        I once showed up to an interview in flipflops – not a job interview, but as part of a research project, but still very embarrassing. I was doing weeks of fieldwork and couldn’t take the heels, so I was in a skirt/suit and typically switched between sandals and my heels in the car. But on this occasion, I forgot until it was too late and I was in a CEOs office, shoes still in the car…

        1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

          I have nightmares like this.
          This is exactly the kind of mistake I’m likely to make.

        2. tcookson*

          I have shown up to work in my house shoes because they have a hard sole and make me feel like I’m already dressed. I was pretty embarrassed, but my coworkers assured me that it wasn’t anything worse than they’d seen on people in worlds largest retailer every day. Thanks a lot, people :-\

          1. MeganO*

            I was at a conference once, all dressed and waiting for the elevator, before I realized I’d worn my slippers out of the room and forgot to put on shoes. Dodged a bullet on that one…

              1. Jazzy Red*

                A long time ago, in Reader’s Digest, there was a contribution from a woman who had a friend who had children, and had a hard time getting everyone ready for church. One Sunday, she finally got them all in the pews, and when it came time to go up for Communion, she realized she was wearing her fuzzy pink slippers. The friend asked what she did then, and the woman said “I limped”.

                I always want to wear my fuzzy pink slippers.

        3. Natalie*

          I did that once because I bike to work and pack an office outfit. One day I forgot to pack my office shoes so I had to work all day in tennis shoes.

          1. Lalaith*

            One day, as I was heading to work, I stumbled on my front steps and sprained my ankle… and only then noticed that I was wearing sneakers instead of my work shoes :-P I guess the universe REALLY didn’t want me wearing the wrong shoes that day.

    4. Mike C.*

      At my alma mater, seniors would have a huge blowout party 181 days before graduation and then abstain from hard drugs to deal with these tests after graduation.

      It was rather amusing to be honest. :)

  3. anon*

    My experience is probably only mild on the weird scale as well. While working overseas at a recruitment agency, I was interviewing a candidate for a sales position. All went well until the end when he asked me out on a date. Um, no thanks.

    1. excruiter*

      Oh! That reminded me of the candidate that started every sentence with “oh baby…” or “well, pretty girl….”. I stopped him after the second time at (politely!) told him it was inappropriate, he got offended that I failed to appreciate how “nice” he was being.

      1. Ash*

        Ha right, because the only way to be nice to a woman is to compliment her physical appearance and call her pet names. Yuck!

      2. Jamie*

        The hell? I worked with someone like that once – and every time he stopped by my office and called me baby girl, pretty lady, or told me how nice I look I knew he completely f’ed something up.

        How freaking transparent and unprofessional. I was newish and it took threatening to write him up to get it to stop.

        Who is telling these guys that this stuff is charming?

        1. Katie in Ed*

          It’s just deeply ingrained sexism. If you internalize the idea that women are valuable because of their looks or their sexual appeal to men, it’s easy to make the jump that cheesecake compliments like this are flattering and positive, even in the workplace. I don’t forgive this kind of ignorance, but I’ve seen it so much and with such sincerity that it suggests some larger mechanisms at work.

          Which is why it’s so important to have women on the other side of the table. When one of my interviewees said sexually suggestive things (“I give good phone”) and lewdly compliment my appearance (in a Skype profile photo! He couldn’t even see me!), I just politely cut the interview short and sent out the rejection letter. We don’t need to hire folks who treat women that way.

          1. TK*

            I assume “I give good phone” means what I think it means… in a job interview? What is this person thinking? That’s beyond clueless.

            1. Katie in Ed*

              It was for a phone sales position, but the turn of phrase was…unfortunate. Fifty years ago, sadly, that kind of joke might have earned him the job.

              1. Anonymous*

                “Give good phone” is not sexual innuendo and doesn’t refer to phone sex… it’s a real phrase that means talk well on the phone… really, google it, there’s a whole bunch of business-oriented pages and links to books on how to “give good phone”.

                1. Katie in Ed*

                  *Googles*

                  Thanks for letting me know that – I’m glad there were other reasons that candidate wasn’t right for the job. That misunderstanding really shaded my impression of the candidate for the entire interview.

                2. LPBB*

                  I know it’s not sexual, but it plays off of a common sexual phrase. For that reason I feel like it is unprofessional, particularly in an interview.

                3. Jamie*

                  I didn’t know it wasn’t sexual until reading it here. I have to say – it still sounds sexual to me and I find it off putting. But if it’s a legitimate non-sexual phrase that’s good to know because that’s my problem, then.

                4. Ash*

                  It’s a stupid phrase that clearly plays off of a sexual term and there’s no reason you can’t just say, “I have good phone skills.” No need to use idiotic jargon to sound hip or douchey.

                5. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

                  +1 to what Jamie said.

                  And the facts that it is not universally known and does play on a sexual saying means it’s needlessly risky for an interview.

                6. Artemesia*

                  It is sexually suggestive; the phrase itself developed from an obscene phrase; the person using the phrase knows that and chooses it for this reason. It may now have another meaning, but its origins are clear.

              2. Ali_R*

                Wow! I hope it isn’t sexual since my father complimented my husband once saying he gives good phone!

                I think 50 years ago may have been its origin. Must be generational as my father’s 70 now and he said it very matter of factly. He’s still actively working in office cultures, in high demand as a consultant.

                1. Ali_R*

                  Point regarding high demand – he seems to get along well in office environments (repeat clients, etc.) and is probably more in touch with current culture than myself since I’ve been out of the office for years now.

          1. Jamie*

            One of my cat’s is named Missy Lou Who and another is Sham-Wow (don’t judge me) but I’m pretty sure I’d be the office pariah if I started calling my co-workers what I call my cats. Or talking to them in the baby voice my cats like.

            Or scratching them behind the ears, under the chin, and just above the base of the tail…

            And now I wish my co-workers were cats. Where do I get one of those jobs in offices with animals?

            1. Josh S*

              My cats frequently pull the pile of Sham-Wows off the shelf and make it into a napping-bed. So the name makes sense to me!

          2. KarenT*

            I’m pretty sure if I spoke to people how I speak to my cats, I’d be fired. You’ll notice my avatar…

        2. Jazzy Red*

          I’m not pretty, so when some guy at work told me I looked very pretty today, it was nice. After a couple of times, not so much.

          1. Jessica (the celt)*

            For some reason, this reminded me of Uncle Steven in the TV show As Time Goes By, because he always came in and said, “You girls look so pretty. Don’t they look so pretty, Pen?” (His wife’s name was Penny.) He was just being a super-nice guy (and he wasn’t always the sharpest tack on the bulletin board), so it wasn’t creepy, but I immediately thought of him. :)

      3. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

        This reminds me of the “baby talk” issue.
        Aside from sexism–they sound so silly talking normally with others, then turning to a female and using cutesy talk. ick.

        1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

          On 2nd thought, “silly” is the wrong word.
          When I see a guy do this, I think he’s stupid.

      4. SarahMarie*

        I had a candidate who called me “young lady” once. It just rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like I was back in school and being called down to the principal’s office!

        1. ArtsNerd*

          I just had a client tell me how much I reminded her of her daughter and how proud my parents must be of me. Even if I were 20 it would be condescending, but I’m many years older than that.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Ewwww. We had a candidate that put his hand on the interviewer’s knee during the interview and he kept trying to make “come-hither” eyes at her. It was hilarious.

      1. Chinook*

        How did the interviewer react to the hand on the knee. The first time would have gotten a shocked look at the hand, The second time a glare and the third time I would have picked it up with two fingers and asked him if he would like to lose his hand.

          1. Chinook*

            The first time could have been a mistake made out of nervousness. The second one would definitely intentional on his part but, since I would be the one hiring, it woould have been enough to put him in the reject pile but I would still be polite (because of cultural expectations and depending on how overt he was). The third time would be an all bets off type of thing.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          She simply moved her leg. And the kicker is that she interviewed him at the same time as a male VP and he just sat there trying not to laugh instead of saying anything. But the woman it happened to is hilarious and tough and didn’t care at all – she just turned it into a funny antecdote. And of course the guy didn’t get the job.

          1. Chinook*

            I give her props for not caring about it. By making a big deal out of it, IMHO, she would be drawing as much attention to herself as to the improper act. She was in no way in danger, so why wouldn’t she just brush it off? Plus, she had the ultimate power by not hiring him.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is an interesting question to me, actually. I feel something of a compulsion to speak up about really bad/ridiculous/offensive behavior and explicitly let the person know that what they’re doing isn’t acceptable. I think people should be called out on that stuff. I’m not saying everyone has to handle it that way if that’s not their style, but why not say, “Excuse me, why is your hand on my knee?” Or “I’m concerned by (insert other ridiculous behavior here) and I don’t think this is the right fit” or whatever?

              1. LisaLyn*

                I have to agree. Saying something at the time would have been doing not only that clueless guy a favor but also anyone else, who may have not been as confident or unflustered by it, who may come into contact with him later.

                And I don’t think you need to feel as though you are in physical danger before you are allowed to tell someone to stop touching you.

              2. Anonymous_J*

                I agree with this. I don’t like that sort of behavior at all, and I would definitely NOT laugh it off, and I WOULD address it.

              3. Lily in NYC*

                She is a mouthy broad (her words) and would have no problem ripping someone a new one, but I think she was caught off guard in the moment. She probably mentioned it to our HR hiring manager though. I don’t remember and she’s no longer here so I can’t ask.

              4. Mike C.*

                I feel the same way, with the understanding that not everyone is comfortable or privileged enough to make that same choice.

                I just feel that letting such actions slide normalizes otherwise appalling behaviors.

                1. Josh S*

                  Agreed. That’s why — as a white male — I feel something of a responsibility to speak up whenever I see douche-baggery like this. I have the ‘privilege’ on my side and I won’t be called “shrill” or “whiney” or whatever if I speak up and call someone out on their crap.

                2. Anon*

                  what does privilege have to do with calling out bad behavior? I’m a black female and I would’ve said something to this candidate…

                3. Mike C.*

                  Privilege comes in many forms.

                  In some situations, women who stand up for themselves are considered “pushy”, “shrill” or much worse where men are not. Other situations could include power imbalances where you cannot speak out for fear of losing a job or suffering more extreme harassment. Say, if the candidate was the son of the owner of the company.

                  Or simply a matter of social conditioning and personal comfort level. It’s a complicated thing, which is why one shouldn’t blame others for not acting, because the personal situation may be different.

                4. Josh S*

                  @Anon: I’m not saying that there is anyone who *shouldn’t* call out bad behavior. I’m saying that I understand when people from some less-privileged groups opt not to because of the backlash (being called “shrill” as a woman, or getting the “angry black man” tag, or etc etc etc). As a white male, I am in a position where very little of that invective applies to me, so I am better able to speak up for those who may not be able or willing to speak up for themselves. (Or they might be able to speak up for themselves, in which case–more power to ’em!)

                  Because I come from ‘privilege’ I feel a duty, born from chivalry and respect for my common human being, to speak up for those who are less able to do so.

            2. jmkenrick*

              I disagree with you here. She definitely shouldn’t HAVE to speak up if she doesn’t want to, but if it did make her uncomfortable, why would you judge her for that?

              I feel like the flip-side of the “she wasn’t in danger, so why not brush it off argument?” is the “of course he was confused, why didn’t you set him straight!” argument. If that makes sense.

      2. Lisa*

        I think I’d look at the hand, look at the man, move my leg and stand up. Probably while saying something along the lines of “It seems you are not interested in this position, nor are you a good fit for our company. Thank you for your time.”

        And then I’d show him out.

  4. the gold digger*

    These aren’t bizarre as much as they are cute. I am recruiting internationally for some positions. None of the applicants are native English speakers.

    I got a CV yesterday that listed under “Personal Skills,” “good looking and sociable.”

    Another CV had, under “Hobbies,” “Addicted to reading.”

    And just now, I got a cover letter that started, “Hello dear.”

    1. Lily in NYC*

      These are all really cute, you’re right. I think I would enjoy getting a “hello dear” cover letter. I also think I’m the only person in the world that likes being called honey, sweetie, kiddo, etc.

      1. Jamie*

        Oddly enough I thought of the conversation we’ve had here about this just the other week.

        I was having a fairly painful medical procedure done and the nurse took my hand and called me honey and said I was doing great…for some weird reason it really helped. Her kindness (the term of endearment being part of that) made me braver.

        Weird.

        I don’t mind the terms even in daily life unless they are being deliberately condescending. I don’t use them with other people, but a “thanks, kiddo” from someone I know well and know respects my professional abilities just doesn’t bother me.

        1. jmkenrick*

          Most of my experience in hospitals was when I was a teen, but I wonder if nurses aren’t sort of instructed to treat their patients with a sort of closeness (giving comfort, speaking softly, pet names) that people don’t normally use in their workplace.

          People can feel vulnerable in hospitals and I’m sure it’s better to have calm patients who feel taken care of. I know that doctors get lessons in “bedside manner”…I wonder if that comes up in nursing school as well.

          1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

            It’s not universally taught or backed up by management, unfortunately. I’ve met a lot of disinterested healthcare people along with the colorful stinkers and nice ones.

        2. Marmite*

          I have no problem with a “dear” or “sweetie” or “duck” (common in some parts of the UK), and I get called “kiddo” a lot and don’t mind it at all, but I have always hated the touching from strangers, even in medical situations. I’ll take the words, but leave my hands alone!

        3. Elizabeth West*

          That’s a very appropriate use of “honey.” When some manager is using it like “Honey, you just go make the coffee,” then it is annoying and offensive and sexist and patronizing.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t mind those terms either. I can see how I might feel differently, though, if I’d come of age professionally during a time when women had to fight much harder to be taken seriously and not minimized. As it is, though, I kind of enjoy them (although never use them with others and might not enjoy them so much if I were in a job/culture where I was being condescended to or marginalized).

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Good points – I would probably start giving out knuckle sandwiches if I thought I was being condescended to. But in my case it’s usually old men being cute with me. I am like an “Old Man Whisperer”. They love me, I love them (platonically!).

          1. LPBB*

            When I was still working retail I had a bevy of old man admirers. Most of them were really sweet and made me think of my grandpa, so I just smiled and chastely flirted with them.

          2. Marina*

            Totally, the gruff old men who are awful to everyone else are very sweet to me. I have no shame about using their sexism against them.

        2. Marmite*

          A colleague and I are both much younger than most everyone else at our workplace and are both called “kiddo” frequently. He hates it, I don’t mind it at all. He feels it’s condescending and that he’s thought less of because of his age. I don’t feel it’s condescending and know by the level of responsibility/type of duties I’m given that I’m not treated differently than the older employees.

      3. Katniss*

        I totally like it too, though it depends on the context and I would never use it with someone I didn’t know for fear of offending.

        I actually spoke to an HR person who called me kiddo the entire time…this is someone I’ve never spoken to in my life. It was exactly 50/50 endearing and weird.

        1. Chinook*

          I wonder if there is something being exuded by someone who uses terms like kiddo, dear or honey that lets us know if it is condescending, playful or an attempt to suck up? Three different people could use those terms in the same situation and I would react three different ways depending on how it was coming from.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I think it’s probably pretty obvious depending on tone, context, etc. And old man saying “thank you sweetie” when I do him a favor is a very different thing than someone my age saying “sweetie, that’s the not way we do things here” with a tight-lipped fake smile.

          2. Claire*

            There definitely is…I think who they say it to makes a big difference, too. If a coworker playfully calls both me (23 yo marketing assistant) and the the director of marketing “honey,” I’m not going to be upset. The worst when I was working retail – honey/sweetie/girl/angel, no thanks.

            1. Editor*

              In my family, endearments are only used sarcastically. So if I call someone “honey,” it’s probably part of a put-down. “Yes indeed, honey, I am looking for a car, but since you won’t let me test-drive it without my husband along, I will shop elsewhere.”

              Steer clear of the endearments because you don’t know if someone will think they’re sarcasm — even honorifics can be a problem. I once told a man that his car’s trunk was open (“Excuse me, sir, your trunk is open, do you want me to close it?”) and got reamed out for being sarcastic and offensive. Nah, we’re in a parking lot and I don’t know your name.

        2. Nodumbunny*

          I agree that it depends on context. One context being, if it is a woman (I’m a woman) calling me dear or sweetie, I don’t usually mind it unless I have some reason to believe they’re trying to offend me. If it’s a man I haven’t known for 20 years…there’s almost no way that’s going to be okay.

          1. Katie in Ed*

            Women south of the Mason-Dixon line over the age of 40 get a pass with the pet names for me. Everyone else is a no go.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Yep, agree! I sometimes wonder if it is because my family didn’t really use pet names with me. My sister was called “minnie” by my aunt (they have the same first name, so a nickname makes sense), but my mom would only call me weird stuff like Alberto the Mousse, not sweetie, honey, etc. (Obviously, Alison >> Alberto.)

              AND my best friend had a creepy dad who called her cupcake or cuppers and would have her come “give daddy some sugar.” In High School! It was gross and weird and may have scarred me for life wrt pet names.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Cupcake is tolerable for a daddy nickname, but cuppers? WTF? And “Give Daddy some sugar?” That’s not appropriate after age 5.

                1. JC*

                  My great grandfather used to use that phrase. “Come gimme some sugah,” he would say. He was about 90, I was 12-18 (when he passed) and he was suffering from dementia, so he called all of us “pretty girl” or “pretty lady” – my mom, my cousin, my aunt, myself, my sister. He didn’t know who we were any more. This was also in the DEEP south. In that context, it was just how things were.

      4. the gold digger*

        I’m the only person in the world that likes being called honey, sweetie, kiddo, etc

        I had an interview in grad school where the recruiter asked if I was willing to leave Texas. I really didn’t want to. He asked why not and I said, “Because I like living in a place where little old men call me ‘honey.'”

      5. Girasol*

        I was reading it as though he’d gotten confused about forms of address in letter writing. “Sir or Madam,” being completely unknown to the letter writer, cannot be considered dear to him, so what part of speech could the letter writer’s standard “Dear” be? I could imagine someone with a weak grasp of English starting with the greeting “Hello” and figuring that the traditional “dear” part had to go in there somewhere.

    2. Kerry*

      I got a CV yesterday that listed under “Personal Skills,” “good looking and sociable.”

      I’m totally going to start doing this!

      1. RLS*

        me too. My new skill is going to be: “Really, really ridiculously good-looking.”

        I’m sure I’ll ace all the interviews :D

        1. Chinook*

          “My new skill is going to be: “Really, really ridiculously good-looking.” ”

          But, when you show up for the interview, will they wonder what else you are lieing about?

          *ducks behind the office desk*

        2. clobbered*

          I am now trying not to think what the resume for the Old Spice Guy would look like.

          “Hello ladies. I am ridiculously good looking”.

      2. Stevie*

        I wish I could add this to linkedin! It would be nice to show some personality on there, like facebook.

      3. Jillian*

        My boyfriend had to fill out a self-evaluation at work. One of the questions was “On a scale of one to five, how attractive and appropriately dressed are you at the office?” Another was, “I am more attractive than my coworkers: true/false.” I think they meant well-groomed/professional looking, but it didn’t come across that way!

    3. Susan*

      If the person is ESL, do you think they might have started the cover letter with, “Hello dear” because he/she was confused as to the proper way to begin a letter? In polite conversation, we start with “Hello” but in formal letters, we start “Dear” so I wonder if the person was covering their bases and threw both in for good measure?

        1. Jamie*

          You could do worse – I have learned many things from my hours spent with Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.

          Although not about interviewing. Every time I see the one where Rose convinces Enrique Mas that she would be perfect as his assistant without knowing anything about the job gets me all shouty.

          And the one where Blanche is up for the promotion so she throws the murder mystery weekend and her boss pretends to come on to her and a co-worker Posey McGlynn as part of the skit but she doesn’t know that …a must see episode but I wouldn’t take promotion advice from the plot.

          Someday all this trivia will come in handy and I will retire early a rich woman.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Those four women have made me laugh so hard I can’t even tell you.

            Betty White is a scream on Hot in Cleveland, too. She’s the only one left now. :(

            1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

              I had no idea Rue McClanahan passed away!
              I love her character in “Starship Troopers.”

          2. ChristineSW*

            Thank you Jamie for the GG reference! I sure do miss those ladies. Bea Arthur died the same day as one of my uncles–same age too!

      1. Liane*

        It is possible. I have scored student essays by teens, and a number of those by ESL students had amazing vocabulary but the word choice/usage could be off (and the grammar and mechanics as well). English can be very difficult.

    4. AMG*

      I have seen that before in international correspondence. It was a consulting company in Asia. From there, everyone was regularly called ‘Dears’ in the salutation. I commented on it once and they were surprised to hear we don’t use that term in the US,.

    5. tcookson*

      I think I might like to get a cover letter that starts with “Hello dear.” It reminds me of Mrs. Doubtfire.

    6. tcookson*

      I would love to get a “Hello dear.” cover letter. It reminds me of Mrs. Doubtfire.

      1. TychaBrahe*

        Reading for pleasure, even quite a lot, isn’t a bad hobby. But I wouldn’t call it an addiction on my resume.

        I wouldn’t even refer to my desperate need to crochet as an addiction.

    7. Mel*

      I have some off-shore contractors, and fairly often I’ll get an email addressed to, “My dearest Mel” or ending with “Love.”

      It always cracks me up when I get a note: “My dearest Mel, Here are the spreadsheets you needed. Love, Sharif”

  5. kdizzle*

    I moved to a new city and was terrified I was going to have to accept a job offer from a crazy interviewer if I wasn’t able to find something else. She was the Treasurer and Finance Director of a large non-profit.

    I sat down and she said, “Just relax…this is going to be fun. People constantly tell me that I’m the best interviewer they’ve ever had.”

    Then she said, “Watch out for the board members. The men are d***s and the women are b*****s.”

    She didn’t ask any questions…she just kept talking…

    “We have a slow time of year for about four months. I watch America’s Next Top Model on Hulu.” …Then she showed me her monitor. It was Hulu.

    “Don’t let anybody catch you watching Hulu. I’d be forced to thrash you.”

    I just smiled and nodded politely. I said something lame like, “well I hope I don’t do anything on the job that makes you want to thrash me.”

    I really thought I was on a hidden camera show. They ended up offering me the job, and thankfully I had other offers pending, so I happily declined.

      1. kdizzle*

        Trust me, I also appreciated her honesty …because it served as the biggest red flag I’d ever seen.

        Since I interviewed three years ago, they’ve gone through four people in that position. The lady I interviewed with was dismissed by the d***s and b*****s a few months ago.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’ve encountered interviewers like this. It’s almost like they use the interview as a therapy session. They talk and talk about themselves, their work habits, favorite shows, their family issues, etc. It’s really odd. It’s as though no one in their life listens to them so they take the opportunity of a captive audience (the interviewee who, presumably, really wants a job) to be heard.

      1. Seattle Writer Girl*

        I had an interview like this too. The two interviewers were peers (i.e. same job as I was interviewing for) and asked me maybe 3 questions in the beginning of the interview and then literally the next 45 minutes trashing the job, the company they were contracting for, talking about how stressful things were, etc. I remember sitting there silently, staring at the clock, wondering how long this was going to go on and the two interviewers were completely oblivious. They didn’t end up offering me the job, but I doubt I would’ve taken it anyway after that.

        1. FrRibs*

          I had an interview like that for a hospital once. Everyone but the recruiter told me I didn’t want to work there.

      2. Limon*

        I had an interview like that today, the interviewer asked me some ‘different’ questions and I answered them. Then he proceded to talk about himself, his ideas and his plans for the future of the company. I sat there for an hour and a half and finally said, “well I don’t want to take any more of your time.”

        He did open and up like a sort of therapy session and I started to feel uncomfortable and bored. It was weird, and I felt sort of depressed after I left because now he really loved me! but, he didn’t even know me. It felt sad, and I don’t want to work with someone like this.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Limon,
          That sometimes happens when you do nothing but listen to the person. They suddenly think of you as someone who really “understands” simply because you let them talk. It’s a sad commentary on this guy and society in general because it’s rare that you find someone who actually knows how to listen and does it so people who feel they are never heard get very attached, if superficially, to those who they feel are listening.

          It’s very sad when interviewers do this because it’s completely unprofessional, obviously, but it also leaves you with that depressing feeling you mentioned when you exit the interview. It’s emotionally exhausting sometimes. And you made it through 90 minutes? I am impressed, seriously. That is not easy.

  6. Mike C.*

    I haven’t had too many terrible experiences to be honest, but two come to mind:

    1. The three hour interview from 10:45 to 1:45 with no breaks. Just me in a small, overheated room in a full suit while interviewers asked me things for 45 minutes at a time, then switched. One guy spent most of his time detailing the names of all the different internal forms he was responsible for filling out. I understand it’s a QC/QA position, but I don’t need names and serial numbers right now!

    2. When I was trying to leave my terrible job, I had one interviewer ask me the typical, “You’ve been there three years, why do you want to leave?” I gave them the canned, “it’s a small company”, “I’ve hit a ceiling for advancement”, “I was really excited about your company”, etc. Yet, he asked me this question 6 or 7 times over the course of two interviews! No you jerk, I’m not going to tell you about the labor violations, lax safety standards and tyrant of an owner until after your first paycheck clears, not before!

    They also never called or emailed me back after making the final round of interviews. That makes you an asshole.

    1. dejavu2*

      I once interviewed for a position for over six hours without a break. It was round one, for an entry level job right out of college, with a very high-profile nonprofit. The team leader explained at the beginning that since many people are intimidated by being interviewed by multiple people at once, each of the six team members would interview me one-on-one, starting with her. Then, she was going to come in and do a final interview. They literally put be in the server room at a folding table. One by one, they each came in… and asked me more or less the same questions. Over and over. For over five hours. Then, the team leader came back in, and essentially repeated the first hour I had done with her. Despite the length and insanity, I actually thought it had all gone relatively well.

      Then, at the end, the team leader asked if I had liked the interview method. Exhausted, I (as politely as possible) responded that I would have been perfectly comfortable being interviewed by the entire team at once, and that it was a little frustrating to have been repeatedly asked the same questions. She became super defensive and ended the interview. (I’m guessing the interrogation-style interview was her idea.) The best thing I can say for them is that I did receive a formal rejection letter within the three week time-frame they had told me they were operating within.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, being asked the same things over and over again was really irritating.

        But six hours!?!? Holy crap!

        1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

          Sounds like a police interrogation…was there a light shining in your eyes? Did you crack?

        2. Jamie*

          I’m thinking of my all time favorite activities and the only two I want to do for 6 hours at a stretch are sleeping and watching tv. But the watching tv is always while doing something else, so basically sleeping.

          No wonder others envy my ambition – with such personal growth rewarding hobbies like tv and sleep.

      2. Rana*

        Six hours without a break? Oy. I tend to sip water when I’m talking a lot, or nervous, or both, so being forced to sit in one place for that length of time would have been agony by the end! Plus, I also get light-headed if I go without food for that long. It would not have ended well!

  7. Calla*

    I’ve never interviewed anyone, but at my last job at a law firm, I was the person who received all resumes, then sorted them and passed them on to the hiring manager.

    My favorite ever was one from a guy (who, to the best of my memory, had been in the U.S. for a long time if not born here, so it’s not like he was used to totally different resumes/CVs), and had a two-paragraph long section of “Hobbies” on his resume, in which he explained his love for anime and manga.

    1. Ash*

      I don’t think talking about cartoons for two paragraphs is appropriate, regardless of culture or nationality. That’s really weird.

      1. Calla*

        To be clear, I think the anime/manga part was only a couple sentences of his overall hobbies statement. He talked about his other hobbies too. Still very weird though!

        1. VictoriaHR*

          I just received a resume yesterday at a career fair that states:

          “Hobbies: Computer Gaming, Role-playing, Video Gaming, Drawing, Reading, Writing.”

          Now that’s great and all, in fact add Soapmaking and you’ve got my hobby list too, but not. on. a. resume.

          1. Cat*

            Was it a student/recent grad? A lot of career services people advise students to do this. In fact, there are certain law schools where I see it on Every. Single. Resume.

          2. Kerry*

            FWIW, this is common in the UK (in fact, resumes that don’t have ‘extracurricular’ hobbies are seen as a bit weird) – not that this necessarily is why your candidate did it, but just mentioning that “not. on. a. resume.” isn’t the case everywhere!

          3. FrRibs*

            What if “RPGs” under the hobby setting are a lead-in to talking about being a team leader of a dozen volunteers in content creation, including all the motivation, coordination, fire-out-putting, people issues fixing, etc. that a “normal” manager would deal with, for a fan-run MMORPG? Not to mention direct interfacing with the public from most every country under the sun, and keeping everyone entertained, safe, and coming back for years?

          4. Vicki*

            It really depends what jobs he’s looking at.

            We have a lot of game companies ion the San Francisco Bay area and they all want to hire people who _love gaming_. So, he’s be great for those. (I avoid even applying.)

          5. Jake*

            Tyler Durden style soapmaking? If so there is a club I’m not allowed to talk about that you might be interested in.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Although, you have to admit that a love for anime tells you lots about a candidate. Again, refreshing honesty.

        1. VintageLydia*

          I wouldn’t say that! I have a lot of friends who have an appreciation for anime (and odd-ball sci-fi and fantasy and other categories of genre fiction) who have successful careers in a variety of industries.

          1. Calla*

            I agree – while I don’t actively watch it anymore I still have a fondness for certain series from when I was younger (I challenge anyone to watch Sailor Moon and not love it). But, you know, I would never ever mention in a resume, cover letter, interview, etc. for a job at a firm.

        2. Rana*

          I dunno – it depends a lot on the anime. Princess Mononoke is one thing, hentai is something else entirely.

        3. Contessa*

          I’m not sure what it tells you, but I’ve used it in the job interview for every job I’ve had to explain why I started studying Japanese. It also lets me get into the facts that studying other areas of law to which I was introduced through the anime industry is a hobby of mine, and that I have additional presentation skills from teaching short “how to speak Japanese” and copyright law seminars at anime conventions.

          It’s not on my resume or in my cover letters, though, even for copyright positions. I only bring it up in interviews if asked directly.

        4. Penny*

          I can’t tell if you mean this as a good thing or a bad thing but, either way, no it doesn’t. That’s like saying ‘a love of movies’ or ‘a love of books’ tells you a lot about someone. There’s dozens of different kinds of genres and different ways to enjoy the hobby.

          I consider myself a gamer but I know to some people, they picture a gamer as someone who spends most of their day alone in the basement doing nothing else but video games. I don’t play all that much and, when I do, it’s usually at a party with friends.

          Don’t just assume something for the stereotype of it. Whatever you’re picturing as the ‘norm’ for an anime lover, I can promise it doesn’t apply to everyone.

    2. Frieda*

      A few years ago a recent grad from my college contacted me through out alumni network, said she wanted to work in my industry, and asked if I would look at her resume. I said sure, and I’m glad she asked for advice! Each of her jobs listed consisted of one line like this:
      Intern — Law Firm — Summer 2006
      Nothing about duties/accomplishments. It didn’t even say the name of the law firm. Then she had a paragraph at the bottom about how she plays piano. (And no, I do not work in the piano-playing industry.)

    3. Anonymous*

      Hobbies is standard on Japanese resumes…once I had a guy (40 something year-old professional Japanese guy) write his hobby as Zumba…made me laugh

  8. Anon*

    We had one candidate write an incredible cover letter– just really eloquent and gave a good sense of her as a worker and a person. In person: totally tongue tied and awkward. Not necessarily a problem usually, but this was an outward facing position that required constant meetings with constituents and lots of events.

    It was an awkward but unremarkable interview until she was asked a question, thought for a long time, apparently had an epiphany, and yelled, “I HAVE NOTES!” and started digging in her bag. The notes did not salvage the interview.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      LOL we should make that an AAM catchphrase, when we can’t think of what to say–“I HAVE NOTES!”

      Aauugh I have to stop reading this thread now and get back to work…..by the time I get home there should be about 500 comments to read!!

    2. Anonymous*

      What was the role and in what city, just out of curiosity? I have this sinking feeling that that could have been me, but I hope it’s not. I write really good cover letters but feel like I can be a really anxious, terrible interviewer. It will be a comfort to find out if it’s not me! And illuminating if it is!

  9. Kate*

    It happened to me last year, when I was applying for a job. The interviewer asked me if I smoked. I thought, okay, this might be revelant to the work (or more likely, to my breaks). Then he asked me if I drank. Okay, I thought, people don’t like to employ drunks.
    Then he asked me if I did drugs. I was so shocked (and offended) – I mean, I don’t. But even if someone did, would they answer that question honestly?
    The last one was if I had any tattoos. I said I don’t think it’s revelant to how I do my work.

    I’m still a bit unsettled whenever I remember it (I did get an offer, but didn’t accept it – aside from weird questions, a few other red flags popped up in the interview process).

      1. Kate*

        For example, they continued to make inconsequential statements (about the salary and expectations).
        Although, what really tipped me off was when they said that in the first month they usually don’t report new employees to the authorities, because that way if it doesn’t work out, it’s less hassle; and after I work that first month, my trial period can begin.
        Mind you, in my country, even if you work for a day, it has to be reported to the authorities – that’s the law (it proves you worked there, it counts for your would-be pension, it gives basic medical cover, etc.), plus trial periods are very common here and it serves especially because you can end the employment without much hassle.
        I suspect they wanted me to work for them for free for the whole month, then make up something to let me go.

        These, plus the complete lack of benefits, and that they requested I get a driving license, because of the line of business, but they wouldn’t offer any help with that (costs or something, and the salary was ridiculously low), made me decline, before I even had another offer.

        1. Ornery PR*

          At first, I thought you might be in Utah :) I’ve never seen it on a job ad, but on apartment ads you see the phrase, “LDS Standards Apply” a lot. It basically means no drinking, no smoking, no swearing, no tattoos/body piercings and wearing modest dress (like shorts to your knees and no sleeveless shirts), among other things. If I ever saw that on a job ad here, I would take a picture, but I can’t say I’d be too surprised.

          1. Kate*

            No, I live in an EU country :)
            And it’s not standard here to ask the last two questions, but you encounter the first two questions fairly often, so those didn’t surprise me.

            Wow, nice apartment ads…

          2. Andrea*

            I used to take classified ads for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah. Let me just say, people tried to say a LOT of things in those ads that we were not allowed to print. LDS standards is one of them. We were also not allowed to use the abbreviation OBO (Or Better Offer) and various other abbreviations that everyone who called in swore up and down we allowed the last time they called. Nope, not gonna do it.

    1. bo bessi*

      I had a similar experience actually. It was a phone interview with three big-wigs of this particular company. One asked if I drank, and another asked if I had ever been in a fist fight. This was for a customer service/sales position, but that really made me uneasy and turned me off.

          1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

            Now I finally understand how to excel at customer service!

      1. SB*

        I had an interview where they asked if I drank. This was a small, family-owned company in the deep South. This was after I had worked for another company where the owner was a teetotaler, Primitive Baptist who had to pray with her Pastor before deciding if it would be morally acceptable to sell incense burners in her store.
        In the end, they just wanted to make sure the person working wouldn’t be offended (and would join in) with Friday martini lunches.

        1. Snufkin*

          Ah Primitive Baaahb-Tists! Did you have to do any foot washing as part of staff meetings? I’ve always been fascinated by that sect because one of my grandfathers belonged to it and it was a big scandal when he married my Methodist Grandma because the PB’s supposedly could play cards and musical instruments.

    2. Penny*

      I was recently asked in an interview if I smoked but then the job posting had said they were a very strict no smoking business. Seemed like an odd quirk but it wasn’t a problem for me since I didn’t smoke.

  10. Anne*

    During an interview for a project manager position, the hiring manager kept telling me how difficult she was to work for. She talked about 75% of the time during the interview, leaving me about 25% to talk about my qualifications.

    When I asked her the (fantastic) AAM question, “What’s the difference between someone who’s good at this job and someone who’s great at it?” she replied, “You’ll do great if you can put up with me.”

    I should have listened to her. She was a terrible manager. I lasted about 4 months at that job before I jumped ship.

  11. Christy*

    This is more heartbreaking than weird. . . when we were interviewing potential RA’s at my university, one young woman was asked to describe a tough decision she had made. She drew a blank for a second, then blurted out “The decision to let my dad die.” The family had been through a heart-wrenching long illness. She began crying and had to step outside to compose herself.

    It just so happened that I had been HER RA the previous year, so I was able to talk to her for a moment, tell her to take as much time as she needed, and assure her that she would be just fine for the rest of the interview. We ended up hiring her (not out of sympathy, but because she was genuinely a great candidate), but that question was not asked of anyone else for the rest of the day.

    1. Ash*

      Next time you may want to alter it to say something like, “…tough decision you made in regards to a position you’ve held…”

        1. Anonymous*

          Even then the answer may not be the one they expect. I was asked about my most stressful experience at work. At the time I worked in a school and I answered that it was the death of a parent of children in the school. It was a work related stressful experience but not the kind they were looking for I now realise.

    2. LMW*

      The boss in the department next to mine was interviewing for a new assistant, and there was one young woman who burst out sobbing so loudly during the interview that we could hear it down the (short) hall. I guess the boss did a good job comforting her, because she kept calling just to chat afterwards. The boss had to tell her repeated to stop calling. She was convinced she was getting the job. I remember the boss saying she wished she could do something for her — that she was well qualified but just too emotionally unstable seeming. (And the person they did hire was incredibly slow to pick up on stuff.)

    3. College Career Counselor*

      Yeah, college students often give you the personal story because that’s the first thing that comes to mind, they haven’t had much professional experience, etc. But they’re certainly not the only ones prone to do that.

    4. Anonymous*

      Oh yes. I have been in that situation (as the job applicant, also when I was in college). The question was “Tell me about the hardest decision you ever made.”

      I don’t want to get into what my blurted answer was, but I remember seeing the interviewer’s face change to muffled shock.
      In retrospect I realized that she didn’t really want the real answer. But I always thought that was a HORRIBLE question to ask young people with little experience interviewing. I went in thinking
      I was expected to be honest, you know?

  12. Coelura*

    A married male candidate came in for an interview 15 minutes early and spent that time trying to convince the receptionist to spend the night at a hotel with him. His comments became so sexually explicit that she left her desk and asked a male colleague to fill in for her until the candidate was out of the building. She then shared her experience with the hiring manager who immediately struck the man from consideration.

    1. Liz in a library*

      Why do people think they can get away with this? The receptionist works in the same building as your interviewer. When you act like a disgusting jerk, it will not be hard for the receptionist to relay that tidbit!

      1. Frances*

        My best guess (having been a receptionist for a part of my career) is that these are the same people who are rude to waiters, cashiers, etc. Because, you know, they’re not important enough to be nice to.

      2. Liane*

        My current theory is that they don’t read either AAM or Miss Manners because both of them have written about this very thing. Repeatedly.

      3. Brightwanderer*

        My guess would be that someone who thinks the receptionist – or the waitress – or the cashier – is an acceptable target for abuse or harrassment also assumes that everyone else – or at least the people they see as equal/superior, so the bosses of companies – thinks the same way. So no, it doesn’t occur to them that harrassing the receptionist could affect their candidacy – because they assume the decision maker treats their ‘inferiors’ the same way, and would think it was totally normal. (And sadly, in some cases they’re right, of course.)

    2. Tina Career Counselor*

      That’s creepy on so many levels. Even if you’re sleazy in your personal life, how can you not realize it’s a bad idea to act like that in a job interview setting?

    3. Josh S*

      What is the worst about this is that, at some point in this sleaze-ball’s life, it must’ve worked. Or else he wouldn’t be doing it so brazenly. Which makes me ask, Is there really a set of people who would respond positively to this sort of sleaze?

      1. fposte*

        Nah, I don’t think they necessarily ever succeeded. They see anything other than outright being kicked out of the office as a sign that they were getting somewhere, to they think they’re doing really well.

  13. Cat*

    This is maybe “sad and depressing” more than it is “bad,” but when I was in law school, I interviewed on-campus with a large government agency that’s mission was, let’s say, minimized by the current administration. There had been two people from the agency interviewing all day, but one of them was called away on a personal emergency right before my interview. The remaining interviewer apparently took this as his opportunity to be brutally honest about how political appointees were frustrating his ability to do his job. The question I remember in particular was: “So, tell me, what would you do if you had to defend a horrible government policy that was causing innumerable damage and all your friends were like ‘How on Earth could you do that, this is horrible?'”

    I actually appreciated his candor; I didn’t take the job and, even though by the time I would have started, the political winds had changed, from what I’ve heard from people who do work there, it’s not an atmosphere I’d like even now.

  14. Anonymous for this one*

    A hiring manager’s boss came in from maternity leave to interview me, and needed to keep her baby in the office during the interview… which was fine until he got fussy. When she asked if she could feed him, I said sure, but did NOT expect her to continue the interview while that happened. *Incredibly* hard questions too! I am a-okay with breastfeeding in all kinds of situations, but not mid-interview.

    I didn’t get the job.

    1. Anonymous for this one*

      (In her defense, the interview started pretty late and I think she was worried about taking up too much of my time. Not the best way to handle that, though.)

    2. TK*

      Someone once posted in one of these bad-interview threads about an interview for a teaching job at a new private school that took place at the head teacher’s home. If I recall correctly, midway through the interview, the interviewer completely removed her shirt and bra and began breastfeeding her baby… and then when he was done eating, didn’t put anything back on and conducted the rest of the interview fully topless. Anyone want to dig that up?

        1. EM*

          WTH? I’ve breast fed in public so discreetly that I’ve had face to face conversations with folks who had no idea I was breast feeding.

          1. Judy*

            Yep, I was sitting at a table after a pitch-in dinner at church. Baby on my lap nursing, blanket over her. Someone came over and sat down at the table. We were talking for a few minutes. He asked, is she sleeping. I said, no she’s eating. (He was the dad of an old friend, so I felt comfortable saying that to him.)

  15. MiketheRecruiter*

    I think the most bizarre question I have been asked recently was “what was your GPA your sophomore and junior years of college, each semester?” – I graduated college 6 years ago so this is 7 and 8 years ago, respectively. When I asked “Do you need exact numbers or is a ballpark what you are looking for?” I got a blank stare.

    It was for an account management position. I didn’t get the job.

  16. lisa*

    During my first job interview out of grad school, the interviewer asked a few questions about my skills and such, and then leaned back and said, “Why should I hire you when you’re obviously just looking for something to do until you get married?” …

    I should point out that this was 1997, not 1967.

    1. Mike C.*

      I love the fact that he directly indicated he was using your marital status to determine whether he’d hire you or not.

    2. mel*

      We’re only a few comments in and I’m noticing a trend of sexism here already. And so many people think we don’t need feminism anymore…

    3. Daisy*

      If he thinks married women don’t work, and that unmarried women are going to get married and quit, that leaves him with the option of hiring… no women.
      It’s either terrible logic or extreme honesty.

      1. Elfine Starkadder*

        I got a job once *because* I was married, though the hiring folks only admitted this years after I was on board. They had two female candidates. I was chosen based on my qualifications, mostly, but also, they confessed, because I had a husband (the other candidate was single). They thought the stress of working for the fellow who would be my boss would be best handled by a candidate who, at the end of the day, had a husband’s shoulder to cry on. Luckily I knew how to handle Crazy Boss and lasted twelve years with him.

  17. Sourire*

    Nothing too bad, but I was once the “weird” candidate. At the interview for my first full-time job, I was still very young (and so, so very naive to the hiring process). When asked to tell them about myself, I gave an answer that could have been a personal ad (hobbies, interests and all sorts of things not at all relevant to work) and when asked what my dream job would be, I answered honestly (to be Anthony Bourdain, so pretty much a travel/food writer). This was for a customer service job that had nothing to do with food, travel or writing.

    They must have thought I was the biggest ditz in the world. I swear, AAM should be mandatory for those going out into the “real world” looking for employment, lest they embarrass themselves like me.

    1. Anon*

      I was rush chair in college. Senior year, I applied to a sales position, and when asked what experience I had being persuasive and building relationships, I said, “I can convince people to pay money to be my friend.”

      (Oh God, I’m cringing just typing that.) I meant it as a joke, and fortunately the interviewer laughed. I even got a second interview. But wtf was I thinking?

      1. bearcat*

        “I can do math in my head and my Nana thinks I’m smart.”

        –My answer to “Why should be hire you?” for my first job ever working at a snack counter at the pool.

        I got the job. Other than living with my grandmother at the time of the interview, I can’t figure out why I brought her up.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          LOL. I’m going to start using that line.

          The other candidates probably answered, “Uhhh, I don’t know. . .”

    2. Ruffingit*

      I did the same exact thing in my first interview after college. It’s not uncommon to just be naive as to what they are really looking for with these questions. Don’t be so hard on yourself :)

  18. Jessica*

    I’m sure this won’t be the most entertaining story you get today, but I once interviewed a job candidate who said she was interested in the position because she had “nothing better to do.”

    No thank you.

    1. Seattle Writer Girl*

      LOL. I used to get this a lot to.

      Me: “What interests you about this job?”
      Candidate: “It sounded like something I could do”

      WOW……

      *An HR person argued with me once that this was a “dumb” and worthless question. However, I recruit for a very specialized tech job with a nebulous, non-standard title that encompasses a range of skills (data entry, web development/design, editing, writing, photo editing, etc.). I used this question to gauge expectations and weed out folks who didn’t have a well-rounded skill set.

      But seriously, you couldn’t name 1 THING that interested you about the job? Not even 1?

      1. SCW*

        I actually like the question–tell me why you are interested in this particular job. Because I find it really telling to see if they are interested just in a job, just in getting into the company, or if there is something specific about our location, community, situation that they can come up with. Also I’ve gotten some good answers:
        –I need more hours.
        –I need a job, any job, not really this one.
        –My current work is screwed up, and I’m not even sure I still work there. (it was actually worse than this, I condensed)
        –Long unintelligible rant about interviewers.

        1. jmkenrick*

          As a job seeker, I like this question as well! I want to know if what I am interpreting about the role is correct; and I feel like it often opens a broader conversation. Because it can be so friggin’ hard to tell sometimes based purely on the description.

    2. Anonymous Accountant*

      Once a women handed in a completed job application and said she wasn’t interested in working but her parents told her she had to apply for jobs.

      This was 9 years ago when I was still in college and remember it because we were shocked at her honesty.

    3. Lindsay J*

      My fiance just had a kid call out a couple days and no-show no-call one day. The kid showed back up, so my fiance had a chat with him to ask what was going on, figuring that maybe there was some sort of hardship going on in the kid’s life that made him miss so much work. (A lot of his employees are young and in their first job and so may not know that calling in every day is important or maybe somebody forgot to take a message, so he likes to give the benefit of the doubt.)

      The kid’s response was – “I was out applying for other jobs.”

      My fiance appreciated the honesty, at least, but in situations like that or “I have nothing better to do” as a reason for applying, you’re better off lying.

  19. happy cat*

    The interview was Downtown Vancouver BC, so I did expect a bit more than what I got: the office was crammed full of stuff, the interviewers desk had so much stuff on it that a little valley was cleared, so that we could see each other. She asked me what I did not like about my last job, a temp posting, to which I replied ‘Paper shredding” I was given a very old very tiny shredder, it could handle maybe 6 sheets at a time and was told to shred the owners paper work that had accumlated in his basement. Six garbage bags were brought in for me. The shredder was so loud I could barely hear the phone over it. The lady interviewing said, ‘No other canidate answered this, they all said there was nothing about their last job they did not like.” and she went on to tell me how I would not be getting the job based on my answer.
    Really?
    The second odd one was when the interviewer told me all I had done wrong, which is helpful, I guess. She very much seemed to enjoy taking me down a peg or two. It was a hiring agency, so I guess they see enough folks they feel comfy doing this.. The odd thing was, after my driving all the way in from a small town to her more remote Downtown location, she told me she had no jobs for me anyway, and that she doubted she ever would, based on my qualifications. It was just odd. Why drag me out there? And if it was after meeting me she changed her mind, why not tell me that? She seemed comfortable enough to pick apart everything I had said. It was weird.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I had a similar experience where the interviewer couldn’t seem to hold back on telling me I was an idiot (although, not in so many words.)

      It was for a consultant job at an engineering company. I didn’t have finance experience, and he kept asking me all these finance questions. My resume showed I didn’t have experience in that area. Why did you call me in if finance experience was required?

      All he really said was that I didn’t have enough finance experience, but it was the way he said it, like I was flawed and didn’t deserve to be in their building.

    2. SCW*

      I interviewed a couple of really junior folks and I so wanted to give them guidance on some of their answers. I did on one–but I hope it wasn’t mean. She said she didn’t have any experiences relevant to one answer, and I told her I thought her previous answer about another job showed good relevant experience. I’ve found sometimes I want to point out how their relevant experiences could apply to other questions when they seem unable to find examples.

      1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

        That sounds very encouraging. (also reminds me Glinda pointing to Dorothy’s shoes and saying, but you could go home whenever you like, just…)

    3. Whit*

      I had almost an IDENTICAL experience with a hiring agency. I met with a recruiter who actually was a friend of a friend (so I guess I was expecting it to be more positive) and she just went to town on my background, my career interests, my resume (which actually was helpful) but she was sort of a snot. I took the resume advice to heart, but I could have saved myself my pride and a chunk of my time had she just emailed me some suggestions for my resume and said she rarely had anything available in my industry. Sheesh!

  20. C-suite Diva*

    I work for a small but growing communications firm that is solely owned by the CEO. Because the business is growing, and there is not much technical skill required for our jobs, people who know our executives figure anyone can do what we do. I conduct a lot of interviews for friends of friends and family members, most of them benign, but the ones that go wrong go terribly wrong.

    The latest was a friend of one of the executives from high school who was currently working as a high school English teacher. He was completely unqualified for any position, but I agreed to sit down with him and give him some information, and try to help him figure out how to transition his career if he was interested in becoming a communications professional.

    He was late, improperly dressed (shorts and flip flops) and spent more time grousing about his coworkers and the state government than giving me any useful information. He went into a long, convoluted story about his ex-girlfriend, who had worked at another communications firm, about how he didn’t understand or value what she did, and didn’t think she was that bright, but couldn’t understand why she made more money than he did. He repeatedly referenced his friendship with a former employee of my company who had been convicted of stealing both from the firm and individual employees — a fact which he knew, but didn’t seem to think was relevant.

    The real kicker though was that, despite having my business card, and having my contact information publicly available on our website, he called around our office and sent random emails to no fewer than a dozen employees of the firm trying to reach me. When someone finally gave him my email, he wrote demanding to know if he got “the job” because he was trying to plan out his summer. I sent him a nice note thanking him for his time and letting him know that we didn’t have a position that matched his skills. I never heard back from him and figured the matter was done.

    Turns out, he’s been sending numerous emails and texts to the executive he knows demanding to know why he didn’t get the job, giving way too much information about his personal life and financial affairs and berating everyone he came into contact with as being “unprofessional” for not vouching for his intelligence and potential.

    People of the world: no one owes you a job. It’s fine to use a connection to get a foot in the door, but that is not a guarantee that someone will take a chance on you. In fact, there are a number of reasons why companies wouldn’t want to get into that kind of mess. This guy just solidified that for me.

    1. AP*

      And just think, this person is guiding the youth of today! No wonder they don’t know how to interview or get jobs either.

      1. ThatGirl*

        And just think, this person is guiding the youth of today! No wonder they don’t know how to interview or get jobs either.

        There are emotionally immature people in every profession that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a horrible English teacher. He may be great at teaching his content but not so great at handling his personal life.

        This is coming from someone who has worked in Academia for the last 20 years. :-)

        Some of the most brilliant Professors that I know are people who can’t handle basic stuff like a) meaningful adult relationships 2)their own finances or 3)constructive criticism.

        It doesn’t make them a bad person just someone who’s unwilling to work on their weaknesses. *shrug*

    2. CoffeeLover*

      I think it’s nice that the execs in your company at least allow you to make the final hiring decision. There’s a lot of pressure in my company to hire exec’s kids regardless of qualifications or ability.

  21. Lily in NYC*

    This happened to one of my good friends/coworkers. He is a super-star and everyone wants to hire him. He had an interview with a huge RE developer in Brooklyn who is a bit controversial (If you live in NY you can probably figure out who I mean). He met with the CEO and the guy asked him the following: 1. Are you Jewish? 2. Is your girlfriend Jewish? (he wanted a yes answer for both).
    3. You are going to have to deal with a lot of schvartze (Yiddish slur for black people) in this job; can you deal with that? My friend rocks – he stood up, said there was not enough money in the world for him to ever want to work with him and he left. This was 5 years ago and it still boggles my mind.

    1. C-suite Diva*

      Wow, this made me think of how much I really don’t miss working in real estate! I know the company, but this kind of behavior is oddly widespread in that area. Yikes!

  22. Lily in NYC*

    And this is one is just a silly little minor thing that happened to me: I was asked about my punctuality in an interview and I replied that I am anally prompt. Which made the three interviewers burst into laughter and I turned beet red. Alison, this happened to me at USNews & World Report! I got the job and stayed there 5 years – still my best job ever.

  23. Rob Bird*

    Many years ago we had a candidate who, when asked to tell us about a time she had to deal with a difficult co-worker, preceded to describe her double masectomy. At no time did she ever give any answer that related in any way to the question. Being the only male on the interview panel, it was very a uncomfortable situation!

    On the flip side, I was in an interview once and in what I later learned was a test for the job, the lead person on the interview panel suddenly yelled “FIRE!!” and the entire panel got up and started running around the room like crazy people! I promptly got my phone out and dialed 911.

    They stopped dead in their tracks when I was on the phone to 911 and got upset that I called because their policy was to get people out of the building first. I explained they did a really poor job of following their own policy and that they could explain to Law Enforcement, who should be there shortly, why they decided to do what they did. Then I left.

    I later found out that it was the first time any of them had done an intervew and one of them had their future freed up after that….I wasn’t shocked.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I am so confused. Was there really a fire or was it some sort of weird test to see how you would handle an emergency?

          1. Rob Bird*

            Law Enforcement was PO’d! When I told them what happened, they started talking to the lead person on the interview panel about things like abuse of emergency services and jail time for making someone call 911 for an emergency that they knew didn’t exist.

            1. Anonymous Accountant*

              They should’ve faced some fines or such for such actions. What a total abuse and misuse of emergency services. Ugh

    2. Ellie H.*

      Wait – was there an actual fire in the room or in the building? If there was and it wasn’t in the room, how did the person who had been speaking find out that there was a fire in the building? Were they trying to test you to see how you would react? If there wasn’t a fire, was it obvious that there wasn’t and that it was some bizarre improv thing?

      1. Ellie H.*

        Oh, didn’t see the above before posting mine. But was it obvious to you that there was no fire – and did they expect it to be obvious to you that there wasn’t, or were they trying to make you think there actually was one?

        1. Rob Bird*

          I believe they were trying to see what my reaction was to emergency situations (which was not part of the job in any stretch of the immagination).

          Between the time they started acting like Meth addicts until the time I called 911 was about 5-10 seconds. I didn’t see a fire or smell smoke, but when they stopped their Lord of the Flies dancing, I knew there wan’t anything going on.

    3. Limon*

      That reminds me of an academic interview I had with a large panel who asked me questions. I had experience and excellent training in the subject content and felt enthusiastic about the position.

      They kept me waiting forty-five minutes, while they did phone interviews. No one came out to speak with me or tell me where to sit.

      I answered all their questions thoughtfully and with details and interest – I was interested in the position. When I was rejected a week later I called the HR lady to ask for some feedback and she told me that: ‘you didn’t answer the questions.’ She said, when you are asked a question, answer that question and not go off and answer something else.

      But when I thought over the conversation, I answered the questions as asked and they all seemed pleased with my answers. It made me doubt myself – until I remember that this interview was also where, when I asked them some questions the lead person said: “we are interviewing you, not the other way around.”

      So, maybe ok that I didn’t get the job! I was so interested in the position that I didn’t listen to their negative comments and slurs.

      1. Vicki*

        You say you answered with details.
        My guess is they didn’t want details. (And you didn’t want that job).

        “we are interviewing you, not the other way around.”

        Time to get up and walk away.

  24. Felicia*

    This one happened to me yesterday. I got to their office and the interviewer told me “we don’t believe in being professional here” and “one of the greatest benefits is the free pizza and beer every Friday”. People also brought their pets to the office, so their were cats and dogs everywhere. From that I shouldn’t have been surprised by the questions, but I was. I was asked what my super power would be, what my ideal vacation would look like, if my pet could talk what would I want him to say, what do I do in my spare time and if I were an animal, what kind would I be. The only normal questions was “tell me about yourself”. The rest were weird, and near the end, after talking a lot about how cool they were, the interviewer said “I totally suck at interviews sorry about that!” (and it’s easy to imagine everything she said ending with exclamation points. I should have just left, but at least I know I don’t want to work somewhere where they don’t believe in being professional and where such weird questions are considered typical, although all the cats and dogs in the office was sort of cool.

    1. JLL*

      Oh, I had a temp job where the owner kept bringing her cats in. I am deathly allergic to cats- my eyes swell shut, and I have an asthma attack on the spot. I couldn’t last. Plus…animals being all up and through the office makes me uncomfortable anyway. I lasted about 3 weeks, and then I had to call the recruiter and tell her I had to get out.

    2. Emma*

      This sounds like the worst caricature of a start-up – a ridiculously laid-back affair where everyone has fun all the time and you’re not exactly sure what the company even produces.

      What was the job and what does this company do?!

        1. Felicia*

          The company sells pet insurance (so the pet thing makes a kind of really twisted sense) , and the job was for a Community Enthusiast (the title should have given me a hint as to what they were like, but the job description seemed normal). It sounded like a social media and web content position, but they seemed all about creating the start up atmosphere. And I believe in being professional, so I knew it wasn’t for me. Their website was totally normal too! Then the interviewer started using the word laid back and fun far too many times.

          1. CEMgr*

            …the job was for a Community Enthusiast…

            Whoops, I read too fast, that came across as “Community Euthanist”.

          2. Heather*

            Was it Trupanion? They allow pets every day.

            The owner of my company used to bring his dog in all the time.

        2. Jamie*

          HA! Steer clear…Jean Ralphio will want to hire his twin sister from the same mister, Mona Lisa Sapperstien and she’s….

          the worrrrrrrrrsttttt.

          Great – now I want a waffle.

            1. Jamie*

              I am glad you said that because I didn’t want a lot of bacon and eggs…I wanted all the bacon and eggs that you have.

              Apropos of nothing I’m kind of punchy today because today kicks off one of my big projects and I’m just kind of treading water waiting for my data to flow in so I can do my thing…so I appreciate the AAM entertainment. :)

              Speaking of something that would horrify Ron Swanson we are doing inventory tomorrow and it’s an early day and we always put out a big spread with juice, fruit, coffee, and donuts, pastries, etc. People expect it…so one of my most awesome co-workers who I like SO much said she would handle the food.

              She brought it in early. 12 donuts and 2 Entenmann’s coffee cakes and a couple bananas.

              Holy crap – I’d have had a mutiny on my hands! Fortunately my most awesome husband is going to pick up the order I placed for several dozen pastries, fry cakes, raised donuts, and cake donuts so we don’t have a stampede of employees out the door racing to see who gets to cut my brake lines!

              Sometimes it’s all in the details.

    3. P*

      This sounds like the video game industry – perhaps besides the animals, this would be totally par for the course over there.

    4. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

      Instead of doing whacky things and apologizing for them, why not look around for how to run an interview and try doing that? Short sighted.

    5. Rana*

      Oof. What kind of doofs bring their cats to an office, let alone on a day when they know a whole bunch of other cats – and dogs! – are going to be there? My cat would freak.

    6. EM*

      My office is dog-friendly, and it’s perfectly professional. The dogs hang out in their owners’ offices behind baby gates so they aren’t running wild.

      No cats because the vp is deathly allergic, but I wouldn’t being mine anyway. One would freak out and hide, and the other would hiss and give death stares.

  25. Mary*

    I recently received a resume for an admin position and in her resume, she said she is “fiercly competitive.” For an admin job, being “fiercly competitive” means you’re not going to get along with the other support staffers and so we’re not even going to interview you.

    1. Katieinthemountains*

      At my company, admin should be a second set of eyes on what I’ve written, so while I do check all the edits on my reports, if I got a resume that said “fiercly” I would make the same choice you did. I expect applicants to go over resumes with a fine-tooth comb and get someone else to give it a once-over, so when I got a resume that had “profesional” and “archtecal” [architectural], I assumed that this was indicative of the applicant’s best work and the education level of his smartest friend/family member. That may not be fair, but I think companies are making decisions on instant turn-offs all the time.

  26. JMegan*

    My friend was conducting an interview one time, and asked the candidate the dreaded “What’s your worst quality?” question.

    Answer: “I’m kind of unreliable.”

    Although my friend appreciated this woman’s honesty, she didn’t end up giving her the job.

    1. The Editor*

      Same question, and the candidate answered, “I hate people.” I just kind of stared for ten seconds and then ended the interview.

      1. WWWONKA*

        I had a friend that phone interviewed with a private company that did government work and he told them he didn’t like the government.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          On purpose?

          In college, I on-campus interviewed with a pump company. They asked me about my previous job in telemarketing and I told them how much I hated it.

          Did not realize the job was for customer support (engineers on the phone). I didn’t get a follow-up.

    2. Sophia*

      How are you supposed to answer that question? I would think the “my worst quality is actually my best” is standard and isn’t believed

      1. Poe*

        I answer that I am sometimes impatient (which is true), and that I try to remind myself that just like I prioritize my work and thus do not respond to every query immediately, other people do the same and I just need to chill out. It is both true and something I am actively working on, and isn’t one of those “I’m a perfectionist, so sometimes that holds me back” kind of answers.

  27. mel*

    This isn’t an interview experience, but I once stopped a passing manager in a retail store to politely ask about the bakery position they advertised in the window.

    Her reply: “No, you have to be able to lift 50 pounds. But Starbucks is hiring baristas.”

    My thought: Was I seriously just gender-discriminated by a woman?

    Then I got my job in a restaurant lifting 50 pound boxes over and over every single day.

    1. VintageLydia*

      Reminds me of the older-but-able-bodied men who shopped at the retail store I worked at and would ask for help out to their car from their 50 pound bags of dog food, and little 5’3″ 115lbs me came out and threw it over my shoulder like it was nothing. They usually grabbed it out of my hands exclaiming “NEVERMIND” and quickly walked out to their car. Still makes me giggle. (Those that weren’t capable of carrying the bags felt bad about it apparently and used to babble the entire time out to their car that they were so sorry but they really couldn’t lift it and they had help and home and they didn’t mean to inconvenience me etc etc etc. I didn’t care. Able to carry it or not, it got me out of the store and off the register for two minutes [plus the whole “it’s my job” thing.])

      I guess to stay OT, that job not only asked me about what animal I’d be, but all the women who were hired around the time I was were all around the same age (late teens) and very, well, blessed with ample T&A and teeny waist. Most of us were good workers, but there was definitely a bias there.

    2. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

      Ok. It’s time to clear up one thing.
      I’ve been advised to consider a Starbuck’s barista job from several people in the real world and online. (I can’t do sustained typing over 4 hrs, can’t lift over 10 lbs., only a 2yr degree, etc.)
      Every job posting I’ve found for Starbuck’s barista specifies that applicants must be able to lift 50 lbs. (one said 40 lbs.) Please stop advising your weak or injured friends to go after this job, or least not at that company.

      1. AG*

        I don’t know about Starbucks in particular, but I know a lot of jobs just say that for legal reasons.

        1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

          Thanks AG–there’s one near me that I really like. I’ll put in, explain my situation (if I get an offer) and see what they say!
          So glad you spoke up!

    3. Lindsay J*

      I passed a phone screen for stock for Home Depot and was called in for an interview. The two people interviewing took one look at me (I’m a 5’3″ female) and said, “We think you’d be better suited for cashiering instead.”

      I was like, “Um, okay,” and did that interview. I was perfectly capable of doing the stock position and I was annoyed at the time by being essentially told that they didn’t think I was capable of it, but I needed a job and I don’t mind cashiering. I passed that interview, and they called me back in to interview with the store manager.

      That interview took five minutes and he asked me one question then dismissed me. I didn’t get hired.

      Later I noticed that all the cashiers are pretty 18 year old girls.

      I’m pretty sure I was too female to do stock, and not pretty or young or blonde enough to be a cashier.

  28. Sarah*

    Worst interview ever…
    I drove 4 hours down to a major city in my state during the work week (took the day off from my current job). I arrive and the executive assistant of the CEO is coming back from lunch. She informs me that the CEO left for an afternoon meeting and won’t be back. Mind you, this interview was scheduled and confirmed for a couple of weeks – not sure why this wasn’t on his calendar. She asks if I can come back tomorrow. I tell her no, I drove in from (city). She asks if I can come back the day following tomorrow. I again tell her no, I have an event for work. I ask if Monday would work as my office is closed to the public then and I have more flexible hours. She tells me that they spend Mondays in staff meetings all day, so that won’t work. I agreed to e-mail her and see what we could work out. I did e-mail her, but never received a response back. The whole situation was completely inconsiderate, and I’m glad I experienced it so I didn’t end up at a dysfunctional organization – including one that has all-day staff meetings!

    1. Sarah*

      Oh – and I saw the position reposted a couple of months later. I bet the CEO never made time to interview people, so they had to do the search all over again. I did not reapply.

      1. some1*

        I took “we” to mean the CEO has staff meetings all day that the asst sits in on with different teams, not that every staff member is in meetings all day on Monday.

  29. DeAnna*

    I received a cover letter from someone who said he would be excited to work with us because he could tell it was a “fast paste” environment. No, spell check does not catch all your errors, folks!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I bet he thinks that’s the correct phrase! I thought that close neighbors lived “next store” instead of “next door” until I was around 17. My friend thought the term was wind chill wiper instead of windshield wiper. My coworker uses beckon call instead of beck and call (even though beckon call kind of works!). We all probably have one of these we don’t know we are using incorrectly.

      1. Sourire*

        I will shamefully admit to thinking the phrase was “all intensive purposes” until I was around 22 or 23 years old. Oops!

        1. Stephanie*

          I could never make my mouth stop saying “all intensive purposes” even though my brain knew it wasn’t right. Eventually I just stopped using the phrase, so silly!

          1. Emma*

            I know it’s ginger ale and I spell it ginger ale but still say ginger-rail. I think it’s a regional thing…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  If you think it’s butter…but it snot….it’s Chiffon!

                  I’m dating myself, I know.

                2. Jamie*

                  And Elizabeth and I are living proof of why the midwestern accent is the sexiest of all. :)

                3. Anonymous*

                  I did have problems with any of these phrases… until NOW.

                  There are droplets of coffee across my monitor. I will not be able to get these out of my head….

                4. Kristi*

                  A good friend told me if I didn’t start pronouncing “library” correctly I was destined to be become a Seinfeld character.

        2. Zxyn*

          I thought it was “all intensive purposes” until I was 20 or something. I also thought giving an ultimatum was giving an “old tomato.”

          1. Jamie*

            I like old tomato! When I was a kid there was a song getting a lot of radio play called “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” – and I would sing along…but I sang it as I heard it which was “Baby get your ketchup off me.”

            My family still teases me about that one.

            1. Anonymous*

              “I wanna one ton tomato…. one ton tomaaaatooo…..”

              and oh yeah, “there’s a bathroom on the right….”

              1. MeganO*

                For a while as a kid I thought it was “there’s a baboon on the right.”

                Yeah…I was a special kid…

          2. Josh S*

            And for a long time, I wondered why people were so upset about the notion that there were “Youth in Asia”. I mean, little kids everywhere have to grow up somehow, don’t they?

              1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

                yep…still funny…and now I hear “…secret AAAAsian man!…” in my head :’P

        3. Anonymous*

          A sweet young colleague explained to the entire team once that she is a lesbian “for all intensive purposes.”
          Turned out later she meant to say Lebanese, not lesbian, but it still makes me chuckle.

      2. Natalie*

        I had one – I thought it was “give up the goat” rather than “give up the ghost”.

        If anyone has ever read The Poisonwood Bible, one of the characters uses all sorts of eggcorns including “give up the goat”. I had never heard the real phrase before so I didn’t realize the character’s version was incorrect.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          +1 for using the word “eggcorn.” I wrote a wiseGEEK post on that once–I found so many examples I had to restrain myself from making them the whole post.

          1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

            I just learned the word “eggcorn.” Love this… I always hated having to clean up the thorny “boganbilla” (rhymes with “see ya”) branches whenever my Mom did yard work.

      3. Charlotte*

        Incorrigible meant encouragable to me for the longest time…I think it was the way my only friend who used the phrase said it. They’re pretty similar though, if you think about it.

      4. Katieinthemountains*

        Yes! These are colloquialisms that most people probably haven’t seen in print, and they don’t make sense anyway, so why not now-and-days?
        But my inner grammar nazi is cringing just typing this for you. And to my deep disappointment, I have seen some of the above and way too many cite/site/sight errors in actual published books, along with another homophone that had me giggling: “perfectly quaffed hair”

        1. Min*

          “perfectly quaffed hair”

          That instantly made my throat close a little. Ack! Hairball!!

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      I love when I get “prolly” in a cover letter. As in “You’ll prolly want to contact me on my mobile at….”

      1. Sourire*

        I had a roommate who said prolly often, along with supposably (which is technically a word, but she always meant supposedly) and pacifically (instead of specifically). I always wondered if I should correct her, because much like with a bit of spinach in my teeth, or my own use of all intensive purposes, I would want to know so I could fix it. It always just seemed rude/condescending to do so however, so I ended up just letting it go.

        1. the gold digger*

          I have heard the “pacifically” from several people from Alabama and Georgia, enough that it makes me wonder if it is a regionalism.

          I still don’t like it and it sounds ignorant to me, but I think there are some people who come by it honest.

          1. Poe*

            Nope, not a regional thing, unless you want to throw Western Canada in there, too. And only some people, so it’s not an all-over thing.

      2. Lar*

        I once had an applicant for an embroidery machine operator that loved to follow up weekly. She would always start her letter, email, phone message with, “I am checking on my application to become an embryo for your company”. Sadly, child labor laws in my state prohibit the hiring of embryos.

      3. Katieinthemountains*

        My great fear is that these people do not know that “prolly” is a corruption of “probably” and not a separate word. I’m from the South, and I don’t always pronounce all three syllables, but I know how to write them.

    3. Oxford Comma*

      I’ve seen cover letters where the applicant talks about their experience working with the public, and see, they left the “l” out. Takes it to a whole other place…

      1. Emma*

        This happens in public health presentations time and again. It unintentionally turns every presentation into a sex ed talk, haha. I think it’s amusing but the presenters are typically mortified!

        1. Frieda*

          Another fun game, pointed out to me by a physicist, is to see how often media sources covering news from the CERN particle accelerator swap the “r” and the “d” in Large Hadron Collider.

          Also, I have recently learned that the correct phrase is “you’ve got another think coming” and I still get it wrong.

          1. CoffeeLover*

            Omg.. really? I just learned that one apparently. :P

            Personally, I also got “colour coated” mixed up with “colour coded” and “respectively” vs. “respectfully”.

          2. Anonymous*

            Really? I’m going to keep getting that one wrong, because “thing” is a noun. Something other than what you expected coming makes a lot more sense than a “think” coming.

            1. Anony*

              I think it’s because the full phrase is “If you think that, you’ve got another think coming.” I say it as “another thing coming”, too. I’d never heard it as think until I moved to Britain (I’m from the South).

      2. College Career Counselor*

        I get student resumes all the time that say “servicing customers” instead of “serving customers” for working in restaurants. Unless you worked on a stud farm or at the bunny ranch in nevada, you most likely didn’t “service customers.”

        At least, I hope you didn’t….

        1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

          I thought “servicing” was one of those bad grammar terms that got proliferated through trendy use, like “we grow better businesses…” in tv ads. It bugs me like a crooked painting.
          Are you sure this is always used as a misunderstanding instead of an attempt to use hip terms?

        2. Girasol*

          That word is my pet peeve. I have a hard time not splorking my coffee when someone seriously talks about servicing our customers.

        3. Lindsay J*

          One of my training classes at work used the term “servicing guests” almost constantly. I had to try very hard to stifle my giggles, and I’m sure the presenter would not have approved had they asked me to explain what I was giggling about.

        4. Liz*

          “Servicing customers” seems to be new jargon-speak, at least in some industries. I can’t tell you how many presentations I’ve been forced to sit through while exchanging Looks with another person who understands!

      3. Lily in NYC*

        HA! I used to work at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and I can’t begin to tell you how much mail we got that said “exploded” instead of exploited. That would be a pretty messy office if we had exploding children.

        1. Lisa*

          “Wensleydale hesitated, and then said in a voice heavy with badly tried patience, “Brian, just because it says Exploded Diagram—”

            1. Natalie*

              I used to have a client with the last name Fuchs. I almost mistyped that name so many times…

        2. Girasol*

          When I worked in a recruiting agency we saw all sorts of spelling errors especially for warehouse/weerhouse/warhouse/wearhouse, but the best was from an applicant who had most recently been a forklift driver in a whorehouse.

      4. Jamie*

        I have to be extremely careful about dropping the ‘o’ from accountants, accounting, account, counts…

        Long, long ago I came very close to sending out an email to all department heads about the import of my getting all their counts into my office asap. I fortunately saw the missing ‘o’ at the last minute so corrected before sending.

        Otherwise I’d have had to quit my job and go into the embarrassing typo relocation program.

        Also when mistyping Volvo REALLY check what spell check wants to change that to before sending.

          1. Anonymous*

            yeah, really.

            Now I have more words to worry about…. I caught on to that “public” thing but never thought any farther…

        1. Lindsay J*

          One of the girls that sent out our hourly metrics left the “O” out of “Count” one time. The email goes to all members of management for the whole park. I would have been mortified if I had made the typo, and I’m difficult to embarrass.

        2. Jen in RO*

          Several of my friends got an invitation to a conference taking place on the whores of Turkey… and then an apology clarifying that w should have been s.

        3. Poe*

          “Whole” is a word that will forever terrify me after I caught it spelled “whore” at the last second before emailing a presentation for our president to give to a room full of other presidents. “Examining the whore student experience” is just not what he wanted to talk about…

    4. Anonymous_J*

      I sometimes use “I dunno” in casual conversation, both online and off. I do it KNOWINGLY, though. It’s my laid back mode.

    5. Josh S*

      My very dear Slovak friend thought for a very long time that the lyrics to the song “Big Yellow Taxi” were “They paved paradise and put up a fu**ing lie”.

      Yes, this was partly a language issue*, but if you listen without knowing the lyrics, it really can sound like that.

      *Regarding language issues: This was the same friend who once wrote an email saying, “I’ve moved to Regensburg for studying at University, and I’m doing hotel maid for money.”

      Because, you know, you can “do construction” or “do mathematics” or “do market research” as your paid job, so of course it’s reasonable that you would “do hotel maid” for money…

      1. Ellie H.*

        I am so used to reading ESL-written English that I had to read that (hotel maid) twice before it sounded weird to me. Haha. I think there is something so unique and wonderful about non-standard English as written by ESL speakers. I can only hope that we sometimes sound as endearing in our own second languages.

    6. MP*

      I had a manager who would say “let’s give it another kick at the cat”. I just googled this and it’s a legitimate turn of phrase, but I always knew the expression as “kick at the can”. Poor cats!

  30. nuqotw*

    I once asked a candidate (for an internship – so let’s give her the benefit of the doubt on interviewing skills) what she felt constituted good leadership. She told me “the power to force people to do what you want”. Um, this is a company, not a budding fascist regime.

    1. Chinook*

      Ironically, the better answer would have had her change one word to “the power to convince people to do what I want”

  31. Sabrina*

    This one was just weird, not shocking or bad or anything. The interviewer prefaced every.single.question. with “So, let me ask you a question…” ALL OF THEM. Having since done interviews myself, I’m sure he was just really nervous (it goes both ways!) but it was also kind of odd. I got the job and he was my boss. Nice guy, very socially awkward.

    1. Em*

      I have been conducting interviews with a colleague, and after the candidate answers any question he asks, he thanks them. Every question. For the whole interview. I don’t know how the candidates feel about it, but to me, it’s weird.

      1. Poe*

        This is kind of common in the panel-style interviews in academia (for staff at least, don’t know about faculty) where each interviewer asks one question, you answer while they all write furiously, you pause when done (sometimes for a long time) while they keep writing, the person who asked the question thanks you, then the next person asks the next question. You get used to it after a while.

  32. The Bookworm*

    Years ago an interviewer asked me to tell her how to fry an egg.

    I was interviewing for an office position.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Did she think she was being creative or something? I hate those questions. Google asks questions like: how many ping-pong balls do you think could fit in a 747? Or: How many window panes are there in the United States? Ugh. I understand their intent but it’s still annoying. Just give me a case study if you want to test my creative thinking skills.

      1. Brett*

        My oddest interview was with Google. The interview itself was strange, but what really made it strange was the setup.

        I had applied, somewhat on a whim six months before. They cold called me. A Google team lead called me up unscheduled out of the blue, introduced himself, and informed me that this was my first phone interview for a position with his team. The interview was very difficult and lasted over an hour, but at the end of it he informed me that the recruitment team would call me later that day to arrange an interview with the VP of their division.
        (I ultimately withdrew from the process when I received another offer I wanted, but stayed on very good terms with that Google team.)

      2. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

        Sounds like an English project we did in 8th grade, to illustrate how hard it can be to communicate effectively in writing.
        We got to watch our teacher interpret each of our written instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
        Very entertaining.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Yeah I was going to say the same thing. It’s used as an exercise in communicating clearly.

        2. Jessica (the celt)*

          I know a woman who used to do this (she was an 8th grade teacher, too!) You didn’t happen to go to school in Indiana, did you? (I met her years after she quit teaching middle school, so I’m not sure exactly where she was even teaching, unfortunately.)

    2. Sourire*

      I wonder if this was her trying to see how well you did with effectively communicating directions and/or how detail-oriented you are, which I could see as relevant to an office position.

      1. BookWorm*

        Sourire – communicating effectively is relevant to an office position. However, a better question would have been to ask me to tell her how to perform an office related task.

        I didn’t (and still don’t) eat fried eggs. I told her that, then I gave her instructions on how to fry an egg – including the additional step for someone with a suppressed immune system (wash the egg first), and how to cook it “hard” as opposed to “over easy”.

        1. Sourire*

          I didn’t say it was the best question in the word, I suppose I was just musing about how it could have relevance to the position, despite seeming completely irrelevant at first glance. See AB’s post below mine.

          And personally, even just from the brief summary of your answer that you just gave here, I feel a lot was communicated.

          1. The Bookworm*

            Thanks for the input. Obviously I should have tried harder to relax during the interview. I was caught off guard by the question, and tried to cover all the bases.

            1. The Bookworm*

              In hindsight, I’d have to say it was a “Sheldon” moment. I totally missed the subtext of what the question was really asking.
              Thanks everyone for the comments & feedback.

      2. Heather*

        My answer would be “I get my mom to fry eggs because she makes the best fried eggs. Ever”. Which is the truth – I only eat fried eggs when she cooks them. I just can’t make a good fried egg. Lol

    3. AB*

      I got this type of question in the past, and I’m in IT.

      Questions like these are asked in order to evaluate your verbal communication skills. Using a task that in principle is executed the same way by everyone makes it easier to evaluate your ability to communicate clearly than, say, asking you to tell how to file a document or submit a request for maintenance (or any office-related task that could be performed different in distinct environments).

      For someone getting this type of question and not very familiar with the particular task, you can just ask something like “can you choose a different topic? Cooking is not really my strong suit!”

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        Exactly. One of my favorites I saw on a work study application was “Explain how you would make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich”.

        1. Jamie*

          The only answer I’m looking for what that one is that you don’t use the same knife in both jars without washing. Because that’s just disgusting. :)

          And that you wipe the peanut butter off the knife with a paper towel before putting it in the sink because the smell of wet peanut butter is one of the worst smells on the planet.

          Although refusal to answer on the grounds that it’s a gross sandwich which no one should ever have to eat would totally work for me, too.

          1. Charlotte*

            I saw a friend make one the other day on toast for breakfast. He spread the peanut butter on with the knife, and then scooped the jelly out in a huge glob with the same knife…I watched mortified and asked him what he was doing.

            1. the gold digger*

              Hey. Don’t judge. If I am the only person in the house who eats peanut butter (and I am) and the only person in the house who eats jam (and I am), I can comingle them as much as I want.

              Although I would rather have peanut butter and bacon.

          2. The IT Manager*

            Two knives? One knife in PB and to spread. A spoon to get jelly from the jar onto the bread and then use the first knife to spread the jelly on top of the PB.

            A knife in the jelly? How silly!

            1. Jessica (the celt)*

              I was with you until you used the knife to spread the jelly. I just use the back of the spoon. I find that the spoon scoops the jelly the best, and then the back of the spoon spreads it all around so nicely, kind of like a ladle with a bunch of pizza sauce.

            1. MeganO*

              I agree with Rana. My husband uses a spoon for the jelly, and we both think the other of us is from space. I’ve always used a knife for both!
              Jamie, I also always rise the knife off carefully, but that’s mostly because it’s so hard to get crusty peanut butter off a knife!

          3. Jessica (the celt)*

            What? Knife? To get out jelly? Naw, it’s a spoon for the jelly and a knife for the peanut butter. Jelly’s too wiggly for a knife! ;~)

      2. Jamie*

        Mine was “If your toaster didn’t work what would you do first?”

        My “check to make sure it’s plugged in” was the right answer. They wanted someone who would start with the most likely issues first and not jump to high level troubleshooting until needed.

        I have nothing to do with the toaster at work – just a common thing for non-tech people to evaluate troubleshooting.

        1. AB*

          Yes, I can see it being useful to evaluate thought process as well, in addition to assessing communication skills.

          The question of this type that I liked most was asked when I was interviewing for my current position:

          “Choose any topic you like, pretend I don’t know anything about it, and explain it to me in 3 minutes or less.”

          I liked it because it doesn’t limit you to things you may not be comfortable talking about (especially for someone for which English is a second language, like me – I can present to 400 people on IT topics, but don’t ask me to explain recipes in English, as my vocabulary is very limited there :-). I just chose an IT topic I was familiar with, and the exercise went pretty well.

        2. ggg*

          I have been the bad candidate. I once started to get sick during a full-day interview that I had been flown out for. It was a bad, bad interview. They basically said I did not seem interested enough in the position and was a bad fit. I was feeling so miserable by the end of the day I could not even stick up for myself.

          The next morning I woke up with full-blown pinkeye. I had just lost my glasses, could not put in my contact lenses, and could not see well enough to drive to the airport. I got a taxi on my own dime, but they had to pay someone to come pick up the rental car and drive it 75 miles back to the airport.

          1. Alicia*

            Four months ago, I flew across the country, one coast to the other, for a VERY reputable company (only one in its industry in Canada) I really wanted to work at. I started feeling ill on the plane – ended up puking in an air-sick bag… who, over the age of ten, does that anymore!? That, in combination with a four hour time difference and being up for twenty-three hours straight, made for a not-so-stellar interview. Needless to say I didn’t get an offer.

        3. William*

          Hm. After having worked in four years of tech support, I know I would have gotten that wrong – “Define ‘doesn’t work’ please. Does nothing happen when I push the button, does the bread pop right back out, does the bread not go down? What do you mean ‘it doesn’t work?'”

          Probably followed by a scream, running from the room, ripping my hair out by the handful.

          But it would have been wrong, anyway.

          1. AB*

            “Hm. After having worked in four years of tech support, I know I would have gotten that wrong – “Define ‘doesn’t work’ please. Does nothing happen when I push the button, does the bread pop right back out, does the bread not go down? What do you mean ‘it doesn’t work?’”

            Why do you say your answer would be wrong? Confirming what the problem is before moving into solution mode would be considered a great answer in interviews for many types of IT job!

  33. Former Usher*

    I’ll share a few anecdotes:

    While an undergraduate student, a representative from an insurance company requested an on-campus interview. During the interview, she admitted that she didn’t actually have a position available for me, but wanted to meet with me because she had never met anyone with a 4.0 GPA.

    After graduate school, one interview lasted nearly a full day, meeting with various people singly or in pairs. One interviewer asked me the name of the author of a textbook for a particular class I had taken early in my PhD program. The textbook was a mere formality. The teacher taught from his notes and we never actually used the book. I struggled to remember the author’s name, and the interviewer proudly proclaimed that he remembered the names of all of the authors of every textbook he ever used. He also declared that he didn’t think my research was worthy of a PhD. This was based just on my one or two sentences describing my dissertation.

    During the same interview, a different interviewer revealed that he graduated from my school and told me all of the things he didn’t like about my advisor. Strangely, I was offered and accepted the job. I stayed many years, but that is a story for another day.

    One final interview story: I had an interviewer at a contract research organization try to get me to divulge non-public information about a research project I was supporting. She claimed that she knew plenty of people she could call to get that information, but I wouldn’t budge. I didn’t get offered that job, but I did learn that we shouldn’t hire that CRO.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Those are very weird, but the one that bothers me the most is the insurance interviewer/4.0 thing. She wasted both your time and hers just so she could meet a 4.0 student? That is bizarre. Not to downplay your accomplishment or anything because it is worthy of note that you did well in school, but 4.0 students are not that unusual. If she wanted to meet a gold medal US gymnast or something, I could understand, but would still think it egregious that she wasted her own time and that of the person she’s meeting with.

      1. Tasha*

        In my college class of >6,000 students, two graduated with a 4.0. (I had a 3.96, which was considered quite good but still imperfect.)

        1. Ruffingit*

          I honestly don’t mean to downplay it because it is a worthy accomplishment, I’ve just known a good number of 4.0 graduates so it seems weird to me that it would be something that this interviewer would be so impressed by as to schedule an interview just to meet the person with one.

          Really though, the bigger problem is the waste of time the interviewer put the candidate through just to meet them. For any reason, doing that is bizarre.

          1. anon-2*

            But there are bizarre managers out there, Ruffingit.

            And some feel that, “hey what’s the fun of being a manager if you can’t mess with people?”

    2. anonymous with a small a*

      Oooooh! That last one sounds like something MY company might do! What state was that CRO based out of?

      Yikes.

    3. AP*

      The only textbook I owned in college whose author’s name I can remember is the one that was written by my professor, who was also my advisor.

      Other than that I don’t think I even remember any particular books.

  34. Anon*

    For some of the positions for which I hire, we conduct a pre-interview screen by phone followed by a face-to-face interview, pretty typical. We sometimes reference points the candidate made over the phone that are related to the job functions as a way to transition to the face-to-face interview and break the ice. Apparantly this particular candidate took my lead and as we closed the interview offered what he thought was flattery saying “Wow, you sounded much younger on the phone. Ya know, I thought you were younger than you are… by looking at you. ” As I was obviously not amused by his ‘compliment’, my face must have continued to grimace as he went on to try ans recover, “You have a young sounding voice. ” Mind you, I am in my late 20’s! Needless to say, that paired with a borderline interview, made my hiring decision easy!

  35. FiveNine*

    My employer publishes tax trade magazines. Most of the staff here are tax lawyers or finance types. One candidate for an editorial position did fine in the interview — until the very end. When he asked the editors if they’d like to see his yo-yo tricks.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      You learn something new every day. Never would I contemplate that there would be tax trade magazines (although I don’t know why since I get so many IT trade rags), nor would I assume somebody would want to see my yo-yo tricks.

      1. Josh S*

        There is, almost without exception, a trade magazine for EVERY industry in the world.

        1. AP*

          I worked for a company once that published a trade magazine that was not only focused on garbage collecting, but a specialized aspect of the garbage collecting market. Can’t remember if it was a weekly or monthly, though.

          1. E.R.*

            The rule for trade mags is, if there is an industry or a segment of an industry that may want to buy things, lets make a trade mag and sell ads for it. They tend to recycle all the content.

  36. JLL*

    Just yesterday, I went on an interview. I was told about 2 positions. They LOVE me for the first position initially, like me a lot for the second position. I get there- they keep talking about the second position, even though i made it clear that my FLOOR is about 7K less than what they said they could “push” to get me. The lady also asked me what my hourly rate was if I decided to do it as a contract instead of permanent, and again, she kept pushing for about 7 bucks less an hour than I said I would take- “oh you said your range was _____, right? That was you?” No, it was not, I definitely would not have told you that. “oh…are you sure? I think you’d really like this job…” Not at THAT contract rate, I wouldn’t.
    So I repeated what I said i would find acceptable- AGAIN. And she’s all, “well, let’s just talk to the Senior VP- maybe I can talk him into (5 bucks an hour LESS than what I JUST told her my floor was) an hour.” I asked about the first position , she kept deflecting. I felt frustrated by the end because I felt she clearly wasn’t listening to what I told her, and what was the point of asking me my salary history (which, as you all know, is stupid- but she justified it by saying that she could then “justify” what she would be asking for me), if you are going to ignore that the job you keep pushing me to interview for is CLEARLY less than anything I’ve made in the last 5 years?

    Just…ugh.

    1. LMW*

      Something similar happened to me last year. I was really upfront about what I was making and what I was looking for in my next position in the very first interview. The job was 45 minutes from my house in no traffic — really a terrible commute for my area (so a big added expense). I took multiple days off/half days and interviewed with the several different times, did a writing exercise, and confirmed at least once what my current salary was. Then they made me an offer 5k below what I was making. And acted all surprised when I said that wasn’t doable. Ugh. Still annoyed.

  37. EA*

    My most unusual interview story would have to be my “campus” job while I was in school. The night before moving into the dorms, I was at Home Depot, buying cinder blocks to raise my bed (extra storage space). The guy in front of me noticed the cinder blocks, and made a comment “I see you’re moving in tomorrow … what will you be studying”, to which I replied IT. He mentioned that he worked at the University, and was in charge of supporting the dorm network connections, and suggested that I should email him a resume, because he hired several students each semester, and scribbled his email address on my receipt.

    So, I sent him a resume (after looking him up in the campus directory to make sure he actually was who he said he was) and didn’t really hear anything. After about 2 weeks, I sent him an email, to verify that he had received my resume, and indicated that I’d be happy to come in for an interview at his convenience. The response I got was “I like your persistence. Can you start next week?”

    (I ended up working there for all 4 years that I was in school, and learned far more from that job than I learned from any of my classes)

    Another time, I was asked to fill out a job application that consisted solely of a single half-sheet of paper, asking for my name, address, and SS #. (Granted, this was for a part time job while I was still in HS, at a very small company owned by a family friend)

    1. IT Panda*

      I had something similar happen to me, my hard-drive was failing, and I’d done everything possible I could find to make it last to the end of the year (there were about two weeks left at this point).

      I grew up using PCs but had switched to a Mac for college (Fine Arts School) and hoped the school’s help desk could figure something out for a Mac that I didn’t know.

      Help desk’s response? There’s nothing else we can do for your computer, but do you want to come work for us next year?

      And THAT is how I managed to land my first job with no interview and blue hair.

      1. EA*

        Yeah, I should have added that I considered myself more of the “Weird candidate” part of this thread, not “bad interviewers”

        Our help desk also suffered from a lack of mac knowledge, so I can think of a few folks that were hired primarily for their mac skills (they also ended up being very competent in general, but the added mac knowledge was nice to have)

    2. Lydia Navarro*

      I got jobs in high school and college by leaving my name. I’m assuming it’s because I’m in a small generation and the economy wasn’t totally melted down back then.

  38. Katie the Fed*

    I was part of a panel interviewing a candidate who spent most of the time talking about how he’d had these great ideas but his boss never liked them so he did them anyway and was eventually “vindicated” because they were the right thing to do.

    He also interrupted me (the only female on the panel) as I was asking him an interview question, to ask in a VERY condescending tone when he would get a chance to question US. We tell candidates at the beginning they’ll have a chance to ask us questions at the end.

    Rawwwrrrr.

  39. Tina Career Counselor*

    My worst interview experience was right out of college, interviewing for a legal assistant position at a small law firm.The man regularly swore (not at me, but still), insulted the judges he had to put up with, and insulted/demeaned women, by saying his female clients only had businesses because they got them by divorce or husband’s death and had no idea how to do anything. I had no idea how to deal with him, and sat there meekly, praying for the interview to be over.

  40. TM*

    I had the most awkward committee interview. Eight people were sitting at a table, each person holding a single question on a piece of paper. We went around the table with each person asking their question in a monotone voice.

    I answered each a little nervously but pretty well (I thought), but none of the interviewers engaged by nodding, mm-hmming, asking follow-up questions, or anything. They just went straight to the next person.

    All the while, several of the interviewers were slouching with their arms crossed, occasionally checking their watches. They couldn’t have made it clearer that 1) there was no intention of hiring me from the get-go and 2) they wanted to go home.

  41. Wilton Businessman*

    I know I’ve brought it up before, but I just can’t let it go. Conducting a phone interview and the guy’s tone changes to a slight echo for about 5 or 6 minutes. As he is talking I hear the toilet flush in the background and 60 seconds later there is no echo.

    Yes, the guy was doing “business” during an interview.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That makes me feel slightly better about the guy I just phone-interviewed, who told me at the start of the conversation that he was in the car with his wife (who was driving) and two young children and that I might hear them during our call. I asked if we should reschedule for next week, and he said, “Well, let’s see how much we can get through and then we can schedule a second call later if we can’t finish.”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Well, considering that with some phone interviews, if you can’t do it right then, the company may never respond again. It’s better to do an interview under less than ideal circumstances than to not have a chance to interview at all, right? (That may not be true, but with the way some companies just move on, it seems reasonable.)

        1. EnnVeeEl*

          This happened to me recently, ThursdayGeek, and you are right – some companies will never reach out again if you can’t immediately take their call, during say a meeting with your current manager, at your current job. Called back, left a message and never heard from them again. But I figure it’s their loss and maybe someone I don’t want to work for.

          1. Lindsay J*

            I applied for a position as a comm officer for the local police department about three months ago. About two weeks ago they called me – I assumed to have me come in for an interview. I didn’t answer because I was at work, and they didn’t leave a message and haven’t called back since.

            Now I’m wondering if they called by accident to begin with, or if their hiring process is just that scattered that they go “Oh she didn’t answer, moving on,” and just call down the list until a set number of people answer and set up interviews.

  42. KF*

    I’ve had a couple of weird/not great interviews. One where I showed up for a panel interview for a government job only to discover – after the interview had started – that I was being interviewed for a job that was not the job I’d applied for and no one had bothered to tell me (or they had me mixed up with someone else – I never did find out). The second was strange because I’d gotten a call to come in for an interview; I’d told the person who called I would need to rearrange my schedule and would call to confirm once I had done so (which I did, speaking to her personally and not just leaving a voicemail message). When I showed up for the interview no one was expecting me. It wasn’t that our dates differed, they didn’t have me on the schedule at all. That was awkward because I didn’t know how to explain it really was scheduled without making it sound like I was trying to deflect fault.

  43. Sara*

    I wore a pink blouse to an interview.

    I applied for a job as a receptionist or assistant? in a law office and then I called the company about an hour later and asked if they had received my resume. Needless to say, the lawyer was pretty annoyed. I cried for about an hour after that. In my defense, I was about 20 and had very little work experience and knew nothing about what was appropriate or inappropriate. Also now that I think about it, it’s remarkable that someone actually took the time to speak to me rather than just ignore me, even if it was criticism. I think that would be so rare today.

    Nothing funny here, but I showed up a little early to my interview; there was a candidate ahead of me, and they were gone for over an hour. He walked her to the elevator as she left; when it was my turn, it was barely 5 minutes long and he left me alone to find my way out. This was the last in a series of bad interviews that summer. I cried for about an hour after that.

    And then there were the multiple interviews for small stores/restaurants…..”do you have kids? why not? why do you want to work here.”….epitome of unprofessional and not to mention illegal shady practices.

    1. Anonymous*

      “I wore a pink blouse to an interview.” I’m not sure what this means. Is that a bad thing? I wear pink blouses all the time and it’s never been an issue.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I’m assuming this was a business where white blouse/black skirt was the norm. It’s like that in the law profession quite often. Can you clarify Sara?

        1. LV*

          I think it’s more than a bit ridiculous when places reinforce the norms *that* strongly. My last two job interviews, I wore the same blue and black sheath dress. I got the job both times. I can’t see what would be wrong with any colour of blouse as long as it wasn’t sheer or ill-fitting or anything like that.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I don’t disagree with you. But in some professions, it just is what it is in terms of the norms regarding clothing. So I wondered if perhaps the pink blouse was seen as a problem because the norm was much different.

      2. voluptuousfire*

        Maybe because a lot of articles on how to dress for an interview say to wear a “crisp, white shirt” along with your suit for an interview. Wearing a pink shirt may be considered inappropriate by some.

        Although I wore a raspberry pink blouse with my navy suit to a job interview the other week. I guess it helped because I had my third interview for the position. Wish me luck!

        1. Jamie*

          Pink and navy blue is my favorite color combo of all time. I have to restrain myself when buying stuff otherwise it would be what I wore 90% of the time.

          FWIW it sounds fabulous to me.

  44. Meg*

    I was catching up with a friend of mine who also happens to be fairly high up in company I used to work for. He does hiring for his area, and the other day, he had food poisoning. He was interviewing a candidate for a position that had already been postponed, and he’s the kind of guy that has to be on his deathbed to take any significant time off.

    … and he vomited on the candidate.

    1. Meg*

      Also in front of HIS boss, who was there during the interview as well. He didn’t know what to be more embarrassed about – getting sick in front of his boss, or getting sick on the candidate during an interview.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      There should be a rule that puking on a candidate means they get an automatic job offer!

    3. Anonymous_J*

      OMG! That is simultaneously the funniest and most tragic story I have read all day!

  45. Brian*

    This happened to me yesterday. I had an interview with a city department for a major “Strategic Director” position. Six-figure salary, but the job description was a jumbled mess of meaningless jargon, and I couldn’t for the life of me tell what the job would actually entail. When I sat down at the panel interview, the woman leading it introduced herself and said “we will ask you questions for 20 minutes. Then you will find out if you are offered the job in four weeks via mail”. Surprised, I started to ask if I would have time to ask questions, but the woman loudly interrupted me mid-sentence and started on her list of questions. Throughout the 20 minutes she mispronounced several words or said the wrong word so much that I had to ask to see the written questions, because otherwise they made no sense (I remember her asking “How would you accord the department’s…” when the question said “accommodate” for example). When the 20 questions was up a timer rang and she loudly said “OK THE INTERVIEW IS OVER NOW GOODBYE” even though I was in mid-answer to a question. One of the other panelists just stared at the ceiling and sighed heavily during the entire interview. Needless to say, I hope I wouldn’t wish those coworkers on my worst enemy.

    1. EnnVeeEl*

      You know…I wouldn’t be surprised if you got an offer. Unless things are desperate, I would say no.

    2. Rhoda*

      I had an interview where the interviewer just read the questions without making eye contact at all, as she was busy entering my answers in her computer.

  46. Annabelle*

    Minor, I suppose, but here are a few from different candidates over the years:

    The interviewee who asked if he could take his tie off because it was uncomfortable.
    The one who said the interview was long and he was tired.
    The one who brought his mother and girlfriend to the interview and introduced me.
    The candidate who followed me into the bathroom when I was a recruiter and asked what her chances were.
    The mother who kept pushing me to interview her daughter for a position, when her daughter had never even applied.
    The candidate who called my office line and asked if I could just give her a decision so she could sleep at night (the answer was no).

    1. Sourire*

      “The mother who kept pushing me to interview her daughter for a position, when her daughter had never even applied.”

      Reminds me of the time when I had vented to my mother about a particularly terrible interview I had right out of college and she proceeded to call them (without my knowledge) and berate them for their behavior toward me. I only found out about this years later from my father. I am still mortified when I think of it, and scared of what else she has interfered in that I haven’t found about!

      1. Anonymous*

        Well, I was hot and sweaty so I asked the panel at the start of the intervie whether I could take off my jacket. The hiring manager quickly said yes and thanked me for asking. Can I assume I didn’t make a faux pas? In my defense, it was extremely hot, humid and raining that day in NY city, and as an athletic guy with open pores, having to wear a suit on the steamy subway to an interview, I was feeling the heat. LOL

  47. Katie in Ed*

    I accidentally swore in a interview once.

    For a high school teacher position.

    #mortified

    1. Josh S*

      So long as you weren’t in front of the kiddos, that would be pretty normal in terms of the language I’ve heard from teacher friends. Even at school. (But usually out of earshot of the kids.)

  48. Anony1234*

    I have an interview scheduled at the place which was an hour and a half away from my house – a commute I knew about and was willing to do if I was offered the job. When I was in the interview, the interviewer had a list of things he wanted to go over with me, one of which was about the length of commute for me. He said that it was a very long commute and it would wear me out eventually, and then I would probably leave the job.

    Granted, his concern is legitimate, but why did he call me in for an interview, forcing me to do the commute, instead of just saying, “thanks, but no thanks?” Did he want to drive the point home (pun possibly intended)? If so, what good did it get him?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      He wanted to see how committed you were and if you were flexible in your plans.

      1. Anony1234*

        While that might be in some situations, he did not make it sound like that in the interview. When I told him I had no problems with the commute (and I had made a couple of trips for interviews – and on time for both), he would interrupt me, reiterating what he said about how it would eventually tire me out. I didn’t write everything here, although I have written about this interview in comments on other posts, but that was how this interviewer was during that half hour. I saw he had a list of discussion items, and they were all negatives about me. He talked about each one, I’d answer, and he would interrupt to tell me how my answer was wrong. I really have no idea why he scheduled the interview. Like I said, if he had an inkling of doubt in his mind, he should have interviewed someone else so not to waste anyone’s time. I obviously didn’t get the job (and the poor candidate who did lost the job with a huge portion of the rest of the staff two months later).

        1. voluptuousfire*

          Yes! If you have more reservations than anything else about the candidate, don’t contact them! I had a phone screen like that a few weeks ago and the HM only contacted me because I had (very little) experience with Salesforce, which is the CRM system they were considering switching to, but no, they preferred one called Sugar. Why even contact me if I had no experience in the position, as she saw it anyway?

  49. De Minimis*

    Mine are not that exciting, just garden variety unprofessional behavior….one interviewer was late, and then when he finally shows up the first thing he says is “I have to go to the bathroom.” We proceeded to have very unfocused conversation and he admitted he did not know anything about the job to which I was applying [he would not have been my manager and worked in a different area.]
    He said “I never know what to ask at these things…”

    It was a campus interview and I heard they ended up not hiring anyone from our school at all. I think they just sent people to go through the motions of recruiting there, and I know not long after they didn’t even bother showing up anymore. This was a major company in my field, but you would not have known it by the way the interviewer behaved. I know a couple of my classmates were very angry about the whole thing.

    Had a couple of similar interviews over the past few years–unprepared, unfocused interviewers that I think made a snap decision after meeting me that they weren’t interested and figured why bother even trying to be professional.

  50. College Career Counselor*

    Some time ago, I was conducting a mock interview with an older candidate who was changing careers and wanted some feedback. (He was in his 50s–most people just starting this field are in their late 20s to mid-30s.)

    At some point in the interview, I asked him a variant of why he was interested in the position. The candidate proceeded to pull out framed pictures of his two children and his late wife and then talk at length about their lives during her terminal illness (it was a medically-related industry).

    We finished the mock interview, and I gave him feedback on his content and presentation style. As part of the de-briefing, I said, “I have to ask you about the pictures. You’ve done this in an interview before, haven’t you?”

    He said that, yes, he had. And that he did it deliberately with me to see how I would react. (I had made a point not to react at all during the interview because I save feedback for the end.)

    That’s when the penny dropped. He was coming out of the legal world where you have to present evidence for your claims and attempt to persuade a judge or jury. The pictures were the “evidence” he was using to show his passion and commitment to the field and to personalize it to make his argument (“why I want this job/why you should hire me”).

    Unsurprisingly (to me), this strategy had been an epic failure. Fortunately, I was able to talk to him about which transferrable skills/strategies are appropriate to use in the interview process and how his actions had the exact opposite effect he’d intended (ie, the interviewer doubts your judgment/mental health). I’m happy to say that he did stop showing family pictures to interviewers and ultimately succeed in getting a position in the field.

  51. Marmite*

    I went to an interview that seemed to modeled on the TV show The Apprentice. There were a dozen or so candidates and we did group and individual work related tasks in the morning, had lunch together. Then we were gathered together and in front of the whole group of candidates, assessors, and current employees told one-by-one who was going home and who was going through to the afternoon. Three of us made it through to afternoon interviews but I had lost all desire for the job by then!

    My recent bad interview performance was being completed stumped by “What motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?” I seriously could not think of an answer and ended up saying “The will to live”!

  52. Jennifer*

    Do you remember that creepy guy from Office Space, in the basement with his stapler? We had a guy come in to interview who was about a thousand times creepier than that guy. The sad thing was that he totally could have done the job, but I literally did not want to breathe the same air as him every single day, and said so after the interview. I would have hired him if I never, ever had to see him in person at any time, because yeesh. I don’t know what the hell was going on there, but he was just someone who shouldn’t be around humans, apparently. He wasn’t predatory, he was just…like an alien robot from another planet. Inhuman, somehow. I feel sorry for the dude, but I don’t want to be around him either.

    We also had one lady who when asked about her accuracy (note: office job), said she was very accurate at crochet. I actually DO crochet, but still didn’t think that was an appropriate answer. In general, I just got the feeling that she was crazy–her previous job sounded like they’d gotten rid of her for that–and again, I spoke against hiring her. She seemed nice, but something was off there and I could never peg what beyond the crochet answer. My group didn’t hire her, but another section of the office did later. Six months later I ran into this woman in a store–I’d been out on bereavement leave for a few weeks and wasn’t in the loop on things–and she said she’d been canned at the end of probation. I guess they realized she was crazy too.

  53. Marmite*

    Oh, I also once took luggage to an interview (backpack, laptop and large duffel bag) because they were only holding interviews on one day and I had to squeeze it in on my way to the airport for a work trip. I was taking public transport so couldn’t leave it in my car, I was hoping there’d be a spot in reception I could leave it for the interview but I ended up having to carry it all into the tiny interview room!

    1. badger_doc*

      That’s actually pretty normal for day long interviews. We used to have the candidate fly in the night before for dinner and to get a good night’s sleep and he’d show up for the interview with his bag. We did have a place for him to store it though, and we got him a cab to the airport after.

  54. Alysia*

    I had one recently for an HR job. The interviewer was the HR Director for the company, and here are a few choice quotes:

    – Our workforce is mainly male, which I like, because women take more leave and use more FMLA to care for children. Women are the caretakers and they should be.
    – I want this position to be female though, because I have to talk to women and I’m not a woman. Also minorities.
    – A French company owns us, but they let us do our own thing. We don’t have many French in this location. Our CFO is here and he’s a French, but he’s okay.

    I just kept my face neutral and moved on to something else, because I had been sent by a recruiting firm and if I had fussed at him I imagine they wouldn’t want to do business with me again. I can’t help but wonder if this was all a test to see what I’d do, though, because I never heard anything back from them. Maybe they wanted me to point out how awful he was sounding?

  55. tangoecho5*

    I had a phone interview once. The dept manager spent over 30 minutes talking to me. And I mean talking to me. She told me in detail everything the department did, what the job entailed, history of the company, that her daughter also worked at the same place I did part time (different location though), blah blah blah. Not one single question about my work history or qualifications. Now she was friendly and I was desperate for full time work so I thought ok, lets see where this goes thinking maybe I can get an in person interview. The kicker was when I realized that I wasn’t a serious candidate when she said “well I’m going to interview the other two candidates in person on Friday and then we’ll make our decision”. I asked her why I given a phone interview instead of an in person interview and she said “we didn’t want to make you drive that far or inconvenience you”. The unspoken part being “since you’re not even in consideration”. So maybe I was forced on her by HR or she needed 3 to interview to meet some silly rule and I was the third to apply so she had to talk to me anyway. So rather than just ask me a few basic questions on the phone in an attempt to seem professional and then say “ok, we’ll let you know if you move on to the next stage” and thank me for my time, she wastes over a half hour of my time knowing I’m not even in the running! I’m glad now because I’m sure she’d never stop talking in person either!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Oh man, that is so irritating. I had a boss like that once. The woman literally talked for 20 minutes straight once. I timed it. It was crazy, it was like she couldn’t stand silence or just loved the sound of her own voice or something, but it was really crazy and exhausting. Just listening to the constant chatter was tiring.

  56. anonalupagus*

    This isn’t so much bad interviewer behavior as just bad management leading to bad hiring, but I once interviewed at a company for a specific position (years later, I barely remember what position—I think it was a copywriter); within about ten minutes it was clear from my conversation with the two interviewers that they needed something completely different. They were wonderfully candid about that realization, and we spent a good two hours discussing how to reshape their posting (and rewrite the internal job description) to reflect what they actually did need. They were appreciative, lots of smiling and handshakes and gratitude, etc., and I walked out of the office thinking, “Well, I guess that was today’s good deed.” It was fortunate that I had that mindset, because I never heard another word from either individual or the company. The company itself is still in business, but the local office was shut down several years ago. Color me unsurprised.

  57. Natalie*

    When I first got this interview, I was pretty happy that the ED was willing to come in and interview me on a Sunday instead of requiring me to take time off of work. I was less thrilled when I had to wait 45 minutes after the scheduled interview time with no explanation and a cursory apology. The beginning of the interview was average. The executive director wasn’t a stellar interviewer but not terrible, either. Then the conversation veered in a weird direction.

    Background: I went to a extremely liberal (culturally) small private college that was on the bleeding edge of what people call “consent culture” now. They made national news in the 90s for their sexual violence prevention guidelines. A lot of colleges have similar guidelines now, but apparently in 1994 we were way ahead of the pack.

    The interviewer talked about this policy for 20 minutes, explaining it to this random woman who was sitting in on the interview (still not sure why she was there). It’s not a terribly difficult to understand policy, but apparently he felt the need to act out the part of a college student asking another student to make out, and he decided to use my name for the other student.

    The rest of the interview focused on what was clearly a pet project of his, a resource library he wanted to create and make available to his clients. It wasn’t mentioned in the ad and it didn’t really seem germane to the job, but that’s mostly what we talked about. No surprise, I never heard back.

  58. The Other Dawn*

    A candidate arrived for her interview. At the time my office was directly next to the reception area. She took her gum out of her mouth, rolled it into a ball, held it out to me and asked me to throw it away. Umm, no. That’s disgusting. I held up my waste basket for her to dispose of it. That was my first clue we shouldn’t hire her. Unfortunately I was overridden on that decision. She didn’t last long though. Eventually her lack of professionalism was her downfall.

    1. Ash*

      “Eventually her lack of professionalism was her downfall.”

      Ha, strange how that one worked out.

    2. EnnVeeEl*

      Okay…I need to know who would override this and why. And when it didn’t work, how hard was it not to say, “I told you so!!!”

      I’m guessing someone’s friend or relative.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        LOL Yes, it was very hard not to say “I told you so.”

        We were hiring for an office manager and at the time I had no experience with interviewing and hiring. I just sat in on the interview and listened. I gave my input afterwards. I mentioned the gum incident, but I guess it didn’t seem relevant to the senior managers. I also said that she was too much of a saleswoman for herself: she was trying really hard to sell herself and her skills and it just seemed a little too much.

        During her time here she was reprimanded a few times for minor stuff. The result was she came in the next day wearing baggy black jeans, a pilled black sweater that was three sizes too big, no makeup, hair not done, and, for lack of a better term, shit-kicker boots. Not appropriate attire for an office manager at a bank. She then proceeded to be very mopey all day long. She also had a habit of being way too friendly with visitors. She would talk about very personal stuff to them while they were waiting in reception.

  59. Kelly L.*

    When I was about 20, I went to an interview where the interviewer parked me in a dismal back room and handed me one of those personality/character tests. You know, the ones where they try to get you to say you’d steal from the business, and probably flag you as a liar if you insist you don’t steal! Favorite question on the test (this was true or false):

    “My personality doesn’t change much when I get high.”

    I actually went to the interviewer and pointed out that both True and False implied that I do get high, and how should I answer if I don’t get high. I think she told me to mark False. They never called back, FWIW, and I consider it a bullet dodged.

    1. Z*

      Before I got married, my now-husband and I met with a priest and had to take written tests to see if we were compatible, serious about entering into marriage, etc. One statement we had to agree or disagree with was, “It upsets me when my partner abuses alcohol and drugs.”

      1. Catherine*

        If you answer yes, then you are accusing your partner of substance abusing.

        If you answer no, then you don’t care about the substance abusing that’s going on.

        That is a hilarious question. Especially by a priest.

      2. Mena*

        I just love that someone who has never been married is going to tell you whether you should get married … LoL

    2. AB*

      LOL! Someone reading your test would be thinking,

      “Hmm… So her personality DOES change a lot when she gets high.”

      Definitely a dodged bullet!

  60. Sascha*

    I love these stories! I don’t have anything really weird or interesting but I’ll throw what I can out there.

    I interviewed a young woman once who wore a backpack with her laptop to the interview. When she came in, I figured she would take off the backpack and pull out the laptop (we have lots of people do this, they want show to portfolios, or take notes, etc.). She took out the laptop and left the backpack on the entire. It was just rather strange to me.

    Another woman, when asked if she considered herself a leader or a follower, immediately said, “Oh a leader, definitely, I’m really good at making people do what I want.”

    That’s all I got for now.

    1. Sascha*

      I remembered another! We received a resume once that was nearly twenty pages. Usually only professor/researcher CVs are this long, but this was for an entry-level tech support position (so most are 1-2 pages). The applicant had 6 degrees – 2 bachelor’s and 4 master’s – in widely unrelated subjects. She listed every class she ever took during college, and also listed every conference she had attended, including every conference session! What was not apparent on her resume was her actual job skills – after digging through the resume, we discovered she had actually held one job for about 20 years, and the company paid for any schooling, so that’s why she racked up degrees.

      1. IronMaiden*

        We are hiring ATM and received one similar, except that this applicant had only an entry level degree but listed ever in house course she had ever taken, including mandatory fire and CPR (which are updated annually). 15 pages long and my manager actually interviewed her because my manager is a poor manager and clueless about hiring.

  61. AnotherAlison*

    I had to interview a woman, who was referred by a project manager, who did not speak English.

    It was his dental hygenist’s mom, and I was interviewing her for a mechanical engineering position. She was Russian. We could barely muster the pleasantries in English, and absolutely could not talk about her experience or technical skills. She tried to write some things down that I couldn’t understand with her speaking, but even that didn’t really work.

    It was one of those things where we should have ended it after 5 minutes but dragged it on to the point of ridiculousness because it was a personal referral.

  62. soapyme*

    I don’t really have a horror story yet, just a lot of little things:

    1) Being given side-eye for showing up 5 minutes early.

    2) Being interviewed by people who were clearly just told to interview me only moments before – I have heard “I’ve just been handed your resume” sooo many times!

    3) Being given completely different rundowns of responsibilities, usually because the job description is off. Once I was told by one PI that after training, I would be working for just her. Then I was told by her co-PI that I was expected to hit the ground running and do everything for everybody. Never heard back.

    4) Coming in to interview with a PI, then being told I would have a informal chat with her 3 current assistants first. They had just gotten my resume because they had mixed it up with someone else’s. After 15 minutes of just going over my resume, I was told that the PI was stuck in a meeting and could not meet me. I asked if I should reschedule and was told no. Didn’t get the job.

    I know in ten years I will laugh about this with my friends over drinks. So I will just curl up into a ball and sleep until that time comes.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve been pulled into interviews last minute and handed a resume as I’m walking in – sucks on both sides of this.

        Communication is important.

        1. soapyme*

          I understand that having an interview sprung on you sucks, but some people seem so cavalier telling me they just got my resume. Maybe because I’ve been unemployed so long I’ve become hypersensitive to stupid things like that.

      2. 22dncr*

        The thing I’ve realized from that is NEVER be the first to interview if you can at all help it. Every time I have been it’s been the “I’ve just seen your résumé” bit. Plus the people that are to interview you don’t seem to have it figured out yet: ” OK, it was nice to meet you.” “Um, I’m supposed to meet with the CFO now?” “Oh, let me see if I can find him.” Duh – so did not get that job!

  63. PuppyKat*

    Once I received an application from someone who wrote that his reason for leaving his previous job was “Framed by the manager.”

    Another time an applicant wrote “I was fired for smoking marijuana on the job.”

    Nope, didn’t hire either one of them.

  64. Amy B.*

    I was running an ad for a field position in a male dominated field and received a call from someone wanting more information. My admin assistant passed the call to me and the caller huffed and explained why he was calling and that he needed to speak to the supervisor, not another secretary. I explained to him that I was the supervisor and he said, “No, I need to speak to a man!” I calmly explained to him that he would be, in fact, working for a woman and that there were no men for him to speak to. I can’t remember which one of us hung up faster than the other.

    1. Sascha*

      I had something similar happen to me at my last job. I was on a team of support specialists at a university, and it was my turn to cover the phones during lunch. A male professor called and asked to speak to Bob. Upon telling him Bob wasn’t there, he wanted to speak to Dave. I told him Dave wasn’t there either, in fact no one was, because it was lunch. But I was ready and willing to help him. He snorted and said, I’ll call back when some men are in the office, and hung up on me.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      My first manager at OldJob (I had three) was a woman, and she had a guy show up for an interview one day who, when he saw that he would be talking to a woman, ROLLED HIS EYES. She said he was very condescending during the whole thing. We had a huge laugh at his expense after he left. Needless to say, he was not hired.

  65. anon*

    Our in-house recruiter has had some interesting candidates, for example:

    -Candidate who came to an interview dressed in jeans, a hoodie, and flip flops…. for a customer-facing role.
    -Candidate who was just so excited to be interviewed that she hugged the recruiter.
    -Candidate who couldn’t make a 9:30am interview because that’s when he goes to the gym.
    -Candidate who answered with, “oh, I actually have no idea” when asked “what do you know about our company?” (this happens often, sadly).
    -Candidate who submitted a resume with his/her name as [Address Block] – as in, used a template and didn’t bother changing this out for his/her actual name.

    1. Chinook*

      Back in the 80’s, my grandfather was hiring bilingual museum guides for the historical site he was curator of. I remember him coming home (I was 12 and visiting) and he made a point of stating that we, his grandchildren, should never show up to a job interview with ripped jeans and messy hair. And we never have.

  66. Valery*

    My office is currently hiring and we had a candidate apply with a MENU. He had formatted his resume like a menu with skills under Appetizers (and some had peppers next to them…I guess to indicate hot skills?) Not only did was the format weird but his descriptions were incredibly informal and condescending. I’m paraphrasing because I couldn’t remember it exactly but read and think 3x worse – “I managed a budget so I kept track of how much money we had and didn’t spend more than that.” “I managed 10 coworkers and if they got out of line, tough. ”
    And the job was for a career counselor. Yup, not going to happen.

    1. Tina Career Counselor*

      Please tell me that the person hadn’t previously been an actual career counselor? At least then I won’t feel horribly mortified on behalf of my profession.

  67. some1*

    I was interviewing at a temp agency, which isn’t exactly a job interview as most of you probably know, but it’s a way for the recruiter to get to know you and your experience, etc. before they find a job for you.

    The recruiter was a guy I had gone to high school with, he’s been in my older brother’s grade and his younger sister had been in mine, so we spent a good deal of time just catching up. Then he brought up a possible position and told me what building it was in. He asked me if I was familiar with that building’s location, and I said, “Oh, yeah, it’s right by [name of bar], right?” Then I immediately realized what I said, and made a joke like, “I guess it’s kind of weird to mention a bar in a job interview.” Luckily he laughed and he ended finding a job that turned permanent.

  68. Ag*

    When I was interviewing for a job across the country – I lived on the west coast was relocating to the east coast – the hiring manager came to the office to interview me the day after Thanksgiving, when no one was working. It was a very nice gesture since I would only be in town for a few days. When I got to the interview, the hiring manager was wearing sweats and a baseball cap – I was dressed up of course, so that just made me feel a bit awkward. I understand it wasn’t a work day, but sweats?

    Anyway, once we got to his office, he Googled me and went through every result that was relevant to me (I have a not so common name and have been published so most of them were), pulled up my Twitter account, Facebook account, etc. Next, he asked me how many golf balls would fit into a school bus (he gave the dimensions of each and a pen and paper). Never asked me any questions relevant to the work I’ve done, but gave me an offer on the spot.

  69. VictoriaHR*

    My bad applicant moments are usually just a “did he/she really just say that?” I interview a lot of high school and college students so a lot of time it’s just a lack of worldliness.

    Me: “I saw in your application that your sister works here.”
    Candidate: “Yes, that’s right.”
    Me: “Does she work in the XXX division, or the Nonprofit division?”
    Candidate: “Oh, she doesn’t work in Nonprofit, she gets paid.”

    Me: “I see that you were referred to us by (name) who is one of our bilingual callers. Are you bilingual too?”
    Candidate: “No, I’m Caucasian.”

    Then there was the young lady whose Twitter header said “I like to get stoned & screwed.” This was a high school student, by the way. Her Twitter feed was locked down, but her header was not.

    Another young lady badmouthed our company on Twitter when we hadn’t called her for an interview within 24 hours. My HR department gets a notification when that happens, so we started following her Twitter, which was full of cursing, over-the-top references to sex and drugs, and general badmouthing of anyone and everything. Needless to say, she did not get an interview.

    1. AnonHR*

      My degree was in nonprofit management. While I was in school and inevitably someone in my family (who are fully-functioning professionals in fields like education, ministry, public safety, and health care) would repeat the question, “Now what is it you’re going to school for again?” and promptly make comments about how strange it was I would try to get into something unpaid…

  70. LMW*

    I have been “that candidate” once. I was walking through the downtown area of our town with my father and we noticed a new store had opened. We went in to check it out, and next thing I know, my dad’s going “My daughter is interested in a job here. Are you hiring?” (I had no idea I was interested in job there!)
    It was a tiny little flower shop, and she had just opened, and the only hired help she had was that occasionally her kids’ babysitter (who was in college) would bring the kids to the store and help out for a few minutes. I was very lucky that she had just realized she needed more help. She interviewed me and hired me on the spot.
    I was 14. It was my first non-babysitting job and I ended up working there until I left for college four years later.

    1. jmkenrick*

      My parents also intervened to get my me first job. I was 17, so I have a bit less of an excuse, although to be fair, I didn’t realize they were doing it until after. It was a bookstore, and remains one of my favorite jobs!

    2. AnotherAlison*

      +1

      My mom helped me get a job at her company during high school, which is probably the worst parental intervention there is!

    3. AnonHR*

      We had a candidate whose father is a casual acquaintance of a higher-up in our company submit a resume to our company’s Facebook account. We hadn’t gotten to the “thanks but no thanks” email when the candidates father called to find out when his son should plan to start…

    4. FarFromBreton*

      My dad did something similar the year after I graduated college. I was walking through my city’s winter market with my parents, and there was a stall for some sort of vaguely “green” company (windows or construction or energy or something). My parents stopped to talk to them, and then my dad motioned to me and said, “By the way, FarFromBreton just graduated with an Environmental Studies degree and is a great writer and editor.” The company’s rep very politely but awkwardly replied that they didn’t really need those skillsets at the moment. As soon as we got out of earshot, I gave my dad a -very- long earful, and he’s mostly restrained himself since.

  71. Alysia*

    Also, I worked at a staffing firm a few years ago, and had some extremely interesting people come in for interviews.

    – One guy showed up in a shirt that was nothing but a giant marijuana leaf. When asked about it he said he just thought it was pretty and didn’t know it was weed.
    – One woman showed up in a pair of very short overalls. No t-shirt underneath, just a bra.
    – One woman went into great detail about the abortion her 13-year-old daughter would be getting later that day.
    – One woman who had only ever been a stripper her whole life gave us a seven page resume. No judgment on her profession, but do you really need seven pages?
    – One guy realized toward the end of his interview that he wouldn’t be getting the position. His recruiter left the room for a minute to check something and came back to an oddly smelling empty room. The candidate had pooped in the potted plant.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’ll remember that next time I bomb an interview. “Well, at least I didn’t literally take a crap in the room!”

      1. Jen*

        Ok, that made me literally LOL. I interviewed for my “Dream Job” this past Monday and didn’t get it, so I’m still getting over the sadness…but man, reading this really perked me up and gave me a new way of looking at things :)

    2. tangoecho5*

      You win. Pooping in the potted plant? Discussing your young teenagers abortion? Oh my, oh my.

    3. JR*

      You need to get your workplace a reality TV deal. I would totally watch this (ok not the pooping part, but everything else).

    4. Tina Career Counselor*

      I do believe pooping in the potted plant now takes # 1 on my list of “Who does that?!”!

      1. Jamie*

        If that’s winning remind me never to enter that particular contest.

        And is it weird I’m hung up on the logistics of this? Did he know how long the interviewer would be gone? What if she’d walked back in mid…effort. Would he have just squatted there and finished? If so and you call security what do they do? I’d assume they’d have to let him finish or risk the carpet being a mess.

        And who cleans out the potted plant and how big is their year end bonus to make up for having to do THAT?

        And assuming there wasn’t a roll of Charmin next to the plant (as there rarely is) how was that part managed.

        That there are real life Todd Packer’s out there is scary – no it was not a burst pipe.
        “Michael, it’s not a hate crime.”
        “Well I hated it!”

        1. Lydia Navarro*

          Totally. Love ‘The Office” references on here. So sad it’s done. The final season was a huge step up from last year.

    5. FD*

      I will admit, I’m sort of wondering what in the world they said to fill up SEVEN PAGES of a resume on stripping! Again, no judgement on the career, but what can you say differently about each position that would keep it from getting repetitive?

      Unless she was promoted to say, the manager of the dancers or something like that, but even then, seven pages is seriously overkill!

    6. Elizabeth West*

      – One woman went into great detail about the abortion her 13-year-old daughter would be getting later that day.

      Oh dear. I guess she really needed to talk, but how inappropriate!

  72. YoungMeg*

    I had an interview at a leasing office recently that was a mess from the beginning. I had applied to an online posting that didn’t list the name of the apartment complex, just the city. Two weeks later, I was laying on the couch on a Friday night half asleep in front of the tv around 10pm when my phone rang. It was the the manager of the apartment complex calling to do an impromptu phone screen. I was quickly trying to wake myself up and cross reference my list to figure out what job he was calling about and Google the name of the complex he said he was calling from when he asked if I was still interested because I didn’t sound very excited. I was half-asleep and definitely NOT expecting to be “on” at that time of night. Apparently, I convinced him I was sufficiently excited because we arranged an interview for the following week.
    The interview wasn’t much better. It started about 45 minutes late. The receptionist actually called back to him three times before he called me in. The interview lasted about 15 minutes and consisted of him reviewing my resume with me and asking why I wanted the job. I’m not sure if he just wasn’t interested in me or if he was trying to get back on schedule since the person after me had been already arrived and had been waiting a while. He then said he’d be getting back to us all the following week, after Thanksgiving, and showed me the door. As it was May, I assumed he meant Memorial Day, but who knows, I haven’t heard from him since.

    1. HR lady*

      “He then said he’d be getting back to us all the following week, after Thanksgiving, and showed me the door. As it was May, I assumed he meant Memorial Day, but who knows, I haven’t heard from him since.”

      That made me laugh out loud! I love it!

  73. WWWONKA*

    I recently had an interview with a very large company. When I arrived I was greeted by the receptionist. I then waited in the lobby for the manager/interviewer. When she came out she just called out my name and walked into a small conference room. No introduction to her or the other manager with her, no handshake, no welcome, and no feeling of thanks for coming. The interview questions were strictly the standard employee/ management situation type questions. When I left after my 30 minutes of being a burden to them, no thanks for coming in still, no handshake, just felt like I better get out of there.

        1. Jamie*

          I’ve gotten more than one with “emails” under skills.

          Yeah – not helpful.

          Oddest resume was for an entry level machine operator position – and when I say entry level I mean no skills required – and I received a resume from an applicant with a PhD in Microbiology with some extensive work in a research lab.

          Now we don’t get people with advanced degrees in STEM applying for just over min wage jobs in a factory every day of the week. You’d think this would warrant a cover letter to explain the dichotomy but alas…no cover letter.

        2. KellyK*

          There might be jobs that that would matter for, but I’m sure they want more specific skills than “I can use Google.”

          1. E*

            That’s actually very relevant to my job, but I’d never put it on my resume like that. A big part of prospect research is google skills, though!

          2. Rana*

            Yeah, being able to quickly and efficiently locate information online is a huge part of my skill set, but I’d be emphasizing my familiarity with particular databases, searching techniques, etc. and listing examples of particularly deft searches if I chose to list those skills on a resume!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        LOL mine said PC and internet literate, because I kept seeing “must be able to use a computer, must be comfortable with internet” on so many listings. That and “Microsoft Office!”

        1. Rana*

          Heh. When I last interviewed with a temp agency, I took an assessment test on using Office. Apparently being good with drop-down menus is enough to qualify you as a “master user” of Word? Sure, if it makes you happy…

          1. Jamie*

            Totally this. In the dark ages when I first took the tests at a temp agency – I had never used Office, I didn’t even have access to it. I had taken the online tutorials the night before and scored expert in everything except Access in which I was “advanced.”

            I guarantee you that I know way more now and would test much worse because they ding you for shortcuts. Grain of salt with those tests.

    1. FD*

      I work with people who I have had to show repeatedly how to attach a document to e-mail. And another who has to be walked through logging into his intranet e-mail every. single. time. he needs to use it. I feel like that one should be given a pass if the resume is otherwise solid.

      1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

        FD,
        My comfort with computers is hard-won. I almost never remember a new set of steps unless I write them down in order as my own cheat sheet for later. (It’s the lack of permanent reference points onscreen and jargon) Maybe suggest to your co-worker to steal my idea?

        1. Rana*

          Cheat sheets are good things. I make them up for all kinds of procedures, especially those that I only do a few times a year.

  74. anon*

    At my former company, our 10-person team had multi-stage interviews where the candidate would take a test relevant to the skills they’d need for the position, an interview with our bosses, and then an interview with the rest of our team (without the bosses). This was designed to give the candidate a feel for the company and to allow them to ask some honest questions, as well as to get our team’s opinion on the candidate. We had a few interesting candidates, but the one who stands out was a man who was relatively overqualified for the position. He came to our group interview, introduced himself, and spent 14 minutes straight “answering” the first question from our group. I know the time because we had the conference line open, and there’s a timer once the call starts. Of the few subsequent questions we were able to ask, every answer was long-winded, pompous, self-aggrandizing, and also intending to play on our sympathies (he mentioned his dead mother as the reason for wanting to scale back on his responsibilities and reconnect to family, but it just didn’t quite ring true). We later learned that in an interview with two other managers, he fully admitted that he was just intending to get his foot in the door so he could attempt to leapfrog up in the organization. With the other manager (notably a woman), he was giving similarly long-winded answers and,when she tried to interject with a question, held his hand up and said “let me finish” and went on for five more minutes. One person at the company actually wanted to hire him…but he was known as being one of the more pompous a-holes within the organization! My boss shut it down and said that when she informed him he was not getting the position, he started talking all about how it was beneath him anyways and mentioned all the things he thought were wrong about our interviews and about the company in general.

  75. Rosalita*

    A couple stories:
    1) I’m an internal recruiter. I was interviewing temp candidates together with one of our quirkier hiring managers. During one interview, she looked at me and said to the candidate, “Rosalita won’t like this, but I’m going to ask you a question and you have to pick one of the choice: When you get really stressed out do you:
    a) shut down and not do work
    b) cry and get upset
    c) become passive aggressive and act out
    d) do drugs?” She continued, “I’m just kidding about that last one, but you have to pick one.” The candidate, to her credit, wasn’t too phased and picked choice a, but explained it as “I shut down for a little while, process, and then start up again.”

    2) Some candidates love to say the interviewer’s name throughout the conversation. I’m guessing they think it helps them make some kind of personal connection, but I dislike it because it sounds disingenuous. Also, I have a name that can be spelled and pronounced a number of ways, and I’ve had a few candidates say the name pronunciation over and over again during an interview. I’ve tried correcting people nicely, but I also don’t want to embarrass anyone, and at that point, I’ve already decided the person isn’t the right fit.

    3) A candidate once called me at least 4 times because he was having trouble with our online application system. During the 2nd call, I had instructed him to just email me his materials directly, and he called a couple more times because he was having trouble with that. This was for a job running a site of a national organization, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if he was having this much trouble sending something by email, he probably wasn’t going to get the job.

    1. Rosalita*

      Oops, in #2, I meant to say that candidates will say the wrong pronunciation of my name over and over.