top 10 weirdest things said and done in job interviews

I recently asked readers to tell us about the oddest job candidates they’ve ever interviewed. Here are 10 of my favorites.

1. False claims of fame

Once I had a guy show up for an interview in flip-flops and shorts, high as a kite. I asked him about a gap on his resume, and he said that during those two years he had been starring in a well-known television show. He had not been.

2. Just back from the pool

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.

3. Honesty isn’t always the best policy, part 1

I once interviewed a job candidate who said she was interested in the position because she had “nothing better to do.” No, thank you.

4. Honesty isn’t always the best policy, part 2

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.

5. It’s an interview, not a pick-up

I interviewed a candidate who started every sentence with “Oh baby…” or “Well, pretty girl….” I stopped him after the second time and told him it was inappropriate. He got offended that I failed to appreciate how “nice” he was being.

6. Insulting interviewee

Recently a position opened on our team. Since our team is close and small, we all interviewed the candidates for this role. One woman we interviewed knew nothing about what we do, and followed up by insulting each of us individually. I think she thought she was being funny. She commented at length about my age and how it was weird for her to be interviewed by someone who looked like she should be in high school with her son (I’m young, but obviously not that young). She turned to all my coworkers and tried to get them to join in with her as she laughed at herself for being so clever. They all just joined me in looking back in horror. She also made fun of my name, which I share with a notoriously destructive hurricane. She managed to throw an insult out at each of us, even making fun of my coworker’s hair style. It was bizarre. I figured if you wanted a job the first step would be not insulting everyone who works there. I later found out she also insulted our receptionist when she arrived.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I work for a well known nonprofit so it’s important to us that employees believe in our mission. She explicitly said she didn’t care about our mission, but she was willing to try to work on it.

7. Inappropriate bathroom habits, part 1

I was 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.

8. Inappropriate bathroom habits, part 2

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

9. That’s not what we meant

I asked a candidate, “Tell me about the biggest challenge that has taken up your time unexpectedly in the last 3 months.”

Her answer: “Well, I’ve started breastfeeding, and that can be tough. Sometimes painful even.”

I thought it was implied that we were looking for professional challenges, but I guess not.

10. Client-stealing donut deliverer

We were hiring for a new intern and we had received hundreds of resumes by email, as requested in the listing. As we were combing through them on Monday morning, there’s a knock on the door to the office. Someone is standing there with a box of donuts. This person was applying for the internship position and brought the donuts along with his resume and a portfolio. He was acting kind of strange and kept hanging around after handing over the donuts/resume. He seemed to expect that we would interview him on the spot. We thanked him and told him we’d follow up with him later if we decided to interview him.

Out of mostly curiosity, my manager decides to interview him. Unfortunately, donut guy was quickly cut from the list because he admitted in the interview that he “only wanted the job because he wanted to gain experience and make connections with our clients. In the near future, he wanted to open his own business and was hoping to steal away our clients.”

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. Brton3*

    I’m a tad skeptical about the guy who did his business in the potted plant in the interview room.

    1. twentymilehike*

      Well, some people can poop very quickly, and on command. Have you seen the mall security footage of the guy pooping in the planter?

      I can believe it … there are a ton of weirdos out there.

      Or he had it in his pocket or something …

      1. Jamie*

        Or he had it in his pocket or something …

        That may be the most horrifying sentence I’ve ever read.

        1. twentymilehike*

          LMAO. Now I’m specifically thinking of the teenage girl in my neighborhood walking her dog who didn’t know what to do with the bag of poo … She got lippy when I told her to take it home with her.

          Maybe she’s handing it out to disgruntled interviewees.

          1. Amy B.*

            “She got lippy…”

            Oh! I am SO using this with my 12 y/o daughter, “Don’t be getting all lippy with me!” I had never heard that.

      2. tcookson*

        A couple of my aunts and uncles got jobs cleaning a department store at the mall, and they said that people poop in the dressing rooms (!!) way more frequently than anyone would care to know.

        1. Elle D*

          So true – I worked in a popular retail store at a mall for 3 years, and I’m sad to say we had people take care of their business in our fitting rooms on more than one occasion.

          1. Anonymous*

            I worked in a home furnishings store and we used to find vases filled with urine.

            I was once straightening the rug area before we closed when I spotted 2 sets of feet sticking out from the pile of rugs. I quickly found another area to straighten. Some time later, a disheveled couple emerged from the rug area…

        2. BookWorm*

          As I was at a store today, I heard a page that someone needed to go to the dressing room with a mop. I hope it was for a spilled drink – but now I’m not so sure.

        3. Jamie*

          Passive aggressive notes has tons of notes warning people not to use the waste baskets in tanning booths for elimination.

          Seriously, if you haven’t mastered the whole using a toilet thing by the time you’re old enough to shop and tan by yourself something went very awry in your childhood.

          Toilets, people…and then flush. It’s not that complicated.

          1. Lucy*

            Oh my word this is so true. I used to work for a tanning salon and we had to keep the trashcans OUTSIDE of the rooms because people would pee in them. Walking in to clean a booth and seeing the dreaded dark spot under the chair still haunts my dreams.

            Full on adults here. Old enough to sign a contract, but not old enough to learn to go potty before you get into the room, or hold it until you get out. I just, I can’t think of it anymore.

            1. twentymilehike*


              OMG. WTH. Adults?! I would be *so* mortified to be the customer who everyone knew peed in the tanning salon trash can. Seriously, if you have to pee, and can’t wait 15 minutes, they’ll let you go and restart the machine for you … tanning salons are not run by prison guards …

          2. IronMaiden*

            Unfortunately you find people use the display toilets in the bathroom fittings department. Surely they realise the things are not plumbed in and are for display only.

        4. Jessa*

          I know, I’ve read this. I just cannot understand how people could do this unless it was an accident. And then they’d be mortified about it. But it seems to be a thing people do? It’s so bizarre.

          1. Helen T.*

            When I worked retail, it felt like a blatant sign of contempt– “who cares, it’s their job / if they don’t like it, they should have found a better job (gone to college)” type nonsense.

            (I might be bitter about the way some people treat minimum wage workers.)

            1. Ruffingit*

              Oh definitely, I hate this attitude! I’ve been out before and done things like straightened the cans in a store or picked up litter inside a building and someone will say “They have people who do that you know…” with a snotty tone of voice. And I reply “It shouldn’t be the job of someone to clean up the soda bottle of adults who couldn’t be bothered to walk two feet and throw it in the trash can.”

              I hate the assumption that minimum wage workers are somehow less than and should literally clean up after people who can’t be bothered to not be littering a$$hats.

              1. Melissa*

                UGH, I hate when people say that, usually while creating a mess – putting things down where they don’t belong or knocking clothes from a rack to the floor. Yes, the store associates do restrock, but you are CREATING MORE WORK for them unnecessarily by your own laziness. How would you like it if people came into your workplace and intentionally wreaked havoc to give you more work?

                And cleaning up poop is in few people’s job description.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, I’ve got the WTF jaw on the floor face over here too. It’s so weird to me that people would do this. And then the question becomes what do they use to wipe with? Not sure I want to know.

          3. Melissa*

            I don’t understand how you can have an accidental bowel movement unless you have health issues. Like accidentally peeing if you have to go really really bad, maybe (although even that is outlandish for grown people). But accidentally pooping in a fitting room? What?

        5. Leslie Yep*

          Not Always Right is full of stories about this! I cannot FATHOM why someone would ever do this!

  2. Anonymous*

    We interviewed a woman who had impeccable credentials on paper – we’re in healthcare finance and she said during the interview that she felt smokers deserve their lung cancer, an executive seduced her at a prior position, and that she is in a “modern marriage”. None of us are sure what she meant by the last one, but we wouldn’t dare ask either.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m in one of those modern marriages, myself. It means that when he forgets to gas up my car I’m expected to do it myself.

      It’s ridiculous and I won’t stand for it much longer.

      1. Liz in a library*

        See, I would have assumed she meant open marriage. A tad irrelevant to the interview at hand…

        1. Meg*

          I would have figured an open/polyamorous marriage as well. Which is super awkward to bring up in an INTERVIEW.

      2. tcookson*

        LOL Jamie, for me “modern marriage” means that when we’re moving heavy furniture, instead of calling over his guy friends and taking care of it, he tells me I’m not holding up my end of the refrigerator!

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I was thinking open marriage, but it could have meant non-traditional roles. . .relevant if she’s trying to imply that she did not have to rush out at 5 pm on the dot to pick up kids since that was the husband’s duty.

    1. Lils*

      Yes!! I interviewed earlier this week and calmed my nerves by thinking about the man who, when invited to ask his own questions, said “Want to see my yo-yo tricks?” That is the BEST line of the thread!

  3. Jen*

    Number #4 reminds me that a co-worker of mine once told us that when he’d interviewed for that job and was asked “What is your weakness?” He responded “I’m always late. If you hire me, I’m going to be about 10 minutes late every day that I work here.” The boss laughed and thanked him for his honesty and hired him. And sure enough he really was 10-15 minutes late every day.

    1. FD*

      Well, he was honest! And if your boss was fine with that as long as he knew it was the way the guy worked, and it didn’t disrupt things too much.

    2. Melissa*

      I love how it wasn’t “I run late; it’s something I’m working on but struggle with,” but full-on “I’m going to be late; deal with it.” LOL

    3. Ellie H.*

      I’ve said this in a performance review. My boss was similarly kind of amused at my honesty. I’ve never been asked the “weakness” question but I always considered the lateness a bit too petty to mention int hat context. I really do struggle with it though!

  4. twentymilehike*

    This isn’t as much of a “interview” incident, but a more of a post-interview one: When I was searching for a live-in care-giver for my father, I interviewed one woman who was eager to relocate from Big City to his Small Town, and she seemed to be a good match. I thought things were going well, until I called to follow up with her and she told me she didn’t need the job anymore because she “found a man to move in with.”

  5. anon-2*

    I don’t like to poke fun at applicants — I have seen some that have made mistakes. Brutal ones, in the application process.

    Back in the “robust” days of IS/IT, we had a resume – of a 24 year old man, who had worked in the industry for three years. He had 14 different places on his resume. Now, looking back – if he had said “under the auspices of Chocolate Teapot consulting -” — but he didn’t.

    I had one lady who applied for a job – I interviewed her, asked her to stay and talk with my boss. She said she’d like to take the bus and go home. Fine — but four days later called back and asked about her candidacy — uh, she basically walked out of the interview, and wanted to keep the process going?

    Made no sense to me.

    Now – when interviews do take place — they tend to go well, and make the hiring managers’ decisions all the more difficult.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      I once had a 4 hour interview (tests and meetings with various different people) at an isolated industrial park where the buses only ran every hour and the bus stop involved climbing over a grass verge, and it was a dark winter evening, so I can understand wanting to go and get the bus, but even so, I would have tried to stay for the ad hoc meeting with the boss.

      1. nyxalinth*

        There’s quite a few areas in Denver like that, and it seems damn near every call center in Denver has to be in them. Instead of, you know, downtown, where you can actually reach them easily :P

        I try to schedule interviews as early as I can in the day for this reason. and, I recall that as late as 2003-2004, the Denver Tech Center had buses that came into the area between 630-830 then not at all again until 330-6pm. If you got sick (or fired!) and had no one to come get you, or got stuck on a last minute call and missed that last bus, say goodbye to your money in the form of cab fare.

        1. anon-2*

          This was in a city where buses run continually – and she could catch one at the corner.

  6. Anonicorn*

    Wow, these stories make the only strange interviewee I’ve experienced seem tame. She spat on herself and kept pronouncing “SME” (like Captain Hook’s first mate) in a pirate voice.

    1. LV*

      Was she one of those unfortunate people who spew saliva around when they talk, or did she spit on herself deliberately? O_o

      1. Anonicorn*

        It was not deliberate. It happened on accident because of how excited she got about saying SME. I felt both horrified by and sorry for her.

        1. LV*

          I never thought I’d live to see the day (or… hear about someone else seeing the day) when someone would get excited about saying SME, period, never mind getting so excited that they would accidentally spit on themselves over it! Despite the secondhand embarrassment that I’m feeling over it, I have to say the mental image is hilarious!

          1. EE*

            …I keep wanting to pronounce the accepted abbreviation for Financial Reporting Standards for Small & Medium Enterprises as Frisbee not Frismee.

  7. Liz in a library*

    I didn’t add this to the open thread, because it isn’t nearly as strange as other stories, but I did interview a woman once whose follow up thank you e-mail consisted of the lyrics to “She Works Hard for the Money.” With the “she” in every line replaced with my name. The worst part was that my boss had to explain to me that the song was about prostitution.

    1. Meg*

      WHAT. That definitely deserves a place on the list! At least with some of these stories, I can follow the (albeit crazy) logic train, but I legitimately don’t understand why someone would do this.

      1. Liz in a library*

        I think it was meant as a compliment. Like, oh Liz works so hard… Maybe it was supposed to make it sound like, “I know you’re so busy” before she asked for the status update? I don’t know.

        She was out of the running almost immediately as she was pretty inappropriately familiar during the interview in a way that would not have worked well for the students she would have been working with.

    2. AnneS*

      This sounds so much like an “inappropriately familiar” person that works at my library, I would not be surprised if it was the same person! I was asked for an off-the-record reference for her once, and I think I said something almost exactly to that effect.

  8. Mallory*

    I work with a recruiter at an executive search firm. She told me she once screened a candidate for a high level position who was great over the phone. She scheduled him for an in-person interview with the company’s Board and he ranked so badly that she later received a call from a board member asking why she’d scheduled this candidate who couldn’t answer the most basic questions. Turns out the real candidate had gotten the flu but didn’t want to reschedule…so he sent his twin brother in his place. Needless to say neither of then got the job.

    1. PPK*

      I was hoping this was going to be a case where the candidate paid someone to interview for them. I heard this was a thing in the dot com boom before skype. People would hire someone to interview that knew about the job, get hired and turn out to be clueless.

  9. Pussyfooter*

    I’m bummed. My favorite didn’t even make the list! I liked the one about the interviewee who put his hand on the no-nonsense, female interviewer’s knee and “made come hither eyes” at her–while her co-worker tried not to bust out laughing at the guy.

  10. Cruella Da Boss*

    Aside from the candidate that called every week for a year, the weirdest thing I’ve ever had was the candidate that hugged me.

    After the interview, I walked the candidate back to the lobby. I said it was nice to meet this person. stuck out my hand for a goodbye handshake. She said she “was a hugger, not a shaker” and >BAM< gave me a big bear hug right there in the lobby. I was stunned. Then she thanked me for taking the time to interview her and left. I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or the receptionists who witnessed it. After the shock wore off, we all had a good laugh.

    We've had some dillies over the years, but none that, um, interesting. Her skill set lacked what we were looking for but if she was wanting me to remember her, I will say that it worked. Every now and a again, someone will bring up the time the "candidate hugged Cruella" and everyone shudders.

  11. LoneContractor*

    I once had a candidate show up with 3 BIG bags of groceries then break into tears in the middle of the interview for no apparent reason- when asked she said she was ‘remembering 9-11’.

  12. WWWONKA*

    I was being interviewed for a job but unfortunately the interviewer was busy texting with his daughter. How unprofessional and rude.

  13. It'sEliz*

    One time I interviewed someone for an AmeriCorps position, and she arrived with a pet bird on her shoulder. When I asked about it, she told me that her bird was sick so she didn’t want to leave it at home. During the interview, the bird was climbing all over her body. So weird!

    1. Jean*

      I hope the interview wasn’t for a position in food service!
      (Am supressing the urge to make comments about birdbrains or whether it’s appropriate to relieve oneself in the potted plant if one is actually a bird.)

  14. DCinDC*

    Though I’ve interviewed a number of odd applicants, two come immediately to mind: (1) a fellow who came to a mid-morning panel interview with a bagel and coffee and proceeded to eat breakfast, and (2) a woman who, at the end of a fairly good interview, opened her (large) purse, took out a pair of socks and tennis shoes, then changed out of her heels while the entire panel looked on.

  15. AnneS*

    My weirdest interview experience was the candidate who completely froze when we asked her to describe a challenge she had faced, and what she had learned from it. She froze, not in a “ooh, I need a minute to think of an answer” way, but in a “catatonic for an awkward and uncomfortable length of time” way. Finally I asked her if she wanted to come back to the question, which she took me up on. At the end of the interview we came back to it and she just froze again, and I finally just bailed her out and told her she could email or call me if she thought of anything. My colleagues and I still feel uncomfortable when we think about those long moments.

    1. Windchime*

      I find it amazing that anyone would come to an interview these days and not have an answer ready for this question. I’ve never been interviewed where some version of this hasn’t been asked.

    2. jesicka309*

      I recently had an experience where they first asked me “what was my greatest achievement?” and followed it up with “whathas been the most challenging thing you’ve ever done?”

      I used my most challenging thing ever as my greatest achievement…you know, because overcoming the challenge was the achievement. So I kind of froze when it came to the challenge because I had a sudden realisation that I had already used my stock answer…I just said something about studying whilst full time, which was pretty lame, but I had nothing else! They’d exhausted all my other work related examples in previous questions.

      1. Flynn*

        Ugh, my last interview was like that. They asked me about six questions in a row that could ALL be answered by the same example(s). I had two good ones and a backup, but by the end of it I was really reaching – it’s hard to think of something else, when you’ve just answered that exact question perfectly and all you can think of is the really good example you can’t use.

        (It was things like “challenge, clashes with coworkers, taken on a major project, shown initiative…” and I was talking about projects I’d taken the initiative to take over from coworkers and complete properly!)

  16. Anonymous*

    While I do think it’s a mistake to use personal examples in a professional interview, I wonder why the question for the breastfeeding woman restricted her to 3 months. If she had been on maternity leave, it’s possible that was her biggest challenge in that time period (it certainly was for me). Now, I would have come up with something else, but I wonder what the rationale is in naming such a specific timeframe for an example instead of “recently.” That would make it difficult for anyone who had been out of work for any amount of time to answer truthfully with a professional example.

    I recently had someone almost cry in an interview using her decision to get a divorce as an example. We all felt extremely bad for her, but that was not the right direction to go there…

  17. Genny*

    My friend’s ex husband had a sex change. On paper s/he looked great. Multiple degrees, management, etc. When s/he was interviewed…..whoa. Picture Mimi from the “Drew Carey Show” standing 6′ with long blonde hair, flashy clothes and the trademark “Mimi” blue eye shadow.

    Funny… s/he never found a job. Heh.

    1. Anonymous*

      …why is this funny? LOL someone has the courage to be themselves and can’t find a job because of it!! hilarious!!!

      1. GenericGen*

        The reason this is funny is because this person was a jerk. Before the change, he got many complaints from his subordinates. I suspect one reason he had the change was to become part of the “protected class” of employees.

        The joke was on him, however, because once employers interviewed the new “Mimi” she wasn’t hired because the prospective employer were afraid of potential lawsuits brought about by her because of the protected class status afforded one who is transgendered.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I cannot imagine someone would have a sex change operation in order to be in a protected class. That’s one of the most massive life changes someone can undergo.

          (Moreover, the legal protection for transgendered people is there whether they’ve undergone the operation or not … and it’s dwarfed by the discrimination they face anyway.)

          1. Ruffingit*

            Not to mention having a sex change is not something a reputable doctor will do without the person having jumped through a number of hoops including references from mental health professionals trained in gender identity issues, living for at least a year as the opposite sex, etc. This is not something a person wakes up one day and decides to do, then finds a surgeon who will book them in for the next week.

            It’s also prohibitively expensive for a lot of people. Insurance doesn’t cover this completely or sometimes at all.

            So yeah…saying someone did this to be a member of a protected class is absurd.

            1. Genny*

              I agree that it is absurd to do such a thing to become a member of a protected class. But that is why this person did this.

              If you knew this person, you would understand why I am saying this. You and I would not do this, but he did, and it backfired on him. People sometimes do really stupid, radical and expensive things. He is one of them.

              1. Melissa*

                Somehow I still doubt it, especially given that you thought it was appropriate to joke about her looks as an example of a funny/outlandish reason she wasn’t getting past the interviews.

                1. Jessa*

                  This, not to mention the fact that Genny keeps calling her by the wrong pronoun. That’s kind of…it’s not on.

  18. Kate*

    Well, about number 9… I wonder what did the interviewer expect for her inquiry of “Tell me about the biggest challenge that has taken up your time unexpectedly in the last 3 months” while she was interviewing a someone who had just given birth?
    Obviously, she was out of the workforce for the last couple of months and wouldn’t have professional experience during that time.

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