interviewers behaving badly — the world’s 8 worst job interviewers

I recently asked readers to tell us about the weirdest and worst job interviewers they’ve ever encountered. Here are eight of my favorites.

1. It’s not a real fire

“I was in an interview once and in the middle of speaking, 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 because it wasn’t a real fire. They were just trying to see what my reaction was to emergency situations (which was not part of the job by any stretch of the imagination), and 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.”

2. HR gone horribly awry

“Here are a few choice quotes from my interview with the HR director for a company:

‘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 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 sounded?”

3. Asked to reprimand the interview team

“I had a nightmare interview experience with Fancy Consulting Firm, Inc. First, they flew me across the country for an 8-hour day of interviews. Six of the eight hours of interviews were on Skype with a team in a different city, much closer to my home.

Second, I showed up in a suit (of course – it’s an interview at Fancy Consulting Firm). Everyone in the office was wearing jeans. They teased me for wearing a suit. When the interviewer asked me about my impressions of their office culture (remember, he was on Skype), I mentioned that they were ‘more casual than I expected.’ He became very upset and said, ‘They’re not supposed to be wearing jeans in the office!’ and asked me to call the office manager in to reprimand everyone.

Third, there was an earthquake in the middle of the interview, and everyone in the office ran up and down the halls screaming.

I do not currently work for Fancy Consulting Firm, Inc. I was never so happy to get out of an interview in my life.”

4. Stranded in a strange city

“In grad school, a certain state university invited me for an interview. I confirmed the date with the professor inviting me, and I was told that since it was a long trip (about six hours of driving), I could just drop by the secretary’s desk and she would hunt him down, and then he would show me my hotel room, etc.

When I got there, the professor was away at a conference, the secretary had no idea I was coming, and I had no place to stay.”

5. Topless interviewing

For a position in a private school that served toddlers through sixth grade, I was interviewed by two people, one of whom had her toddler with her, just playing quietly in the background. About halfway through, the toddler wandered over, and the interviewer whipped her shirt completely off, tossing it on the floor. She wasn’t wearing a bra, so it made it that much easier for her to start breastfeeding the toddler. After she was done, she let the child toddle back to the toys and continued asking questions, topless.

We finished the interview with me trying to keep my eyes above shoulder level and I was very relieved to get a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ from them.”

6. Looking for a mover

“One interview seemed to be going very well until the last few minutes, when the hiring manager asked me what kind of car I drove. I answered honestly (‘a Honda Civic’) and she made a face. She then asked me when I would be able to start (‘2 weeks from the time of offer,’ since I was currently employed), and again she made a disappointed face.

She thanked me for my time, but said the company was moving to a new office Monday so it wasn’t going to work out. When I appeared confused, she explained that she was really looking for someone who could start on Monday (it was a Friday afternoon, and she knew I was currently employed!) and had a large vehicle so they could save money on movers and moving trucks.”

7. “You need a makeover”

“At one interview, the woman interviewing me said my ‘look was outdated,’ gave me her husband’s business card (he was a hair stylist) and suggested I contact him about getting my hair cut/styled, then went on about how handsome he is.”

8. Interviewer on the attack

“The worst interview I had was when I applied to a medical device startup for a design engineer position. Everything was great until the VP interviewed me. She:

  • Walked on her treadmill for most of it, while watching TV.
  • Answered the phone twice.
  • Saw a friend outside and went out to chat for a few minutes.
  • Asked my high school and insulted me for going to ‘that farm school.’
  • Asked if I knew her company’s process. I guessed. ‘You’re wrong, but I can’t tell you because it’s proprietary. But you should know it.’
  • Ridiculed my undergrad college: ‘I’d like you a lot more if you went to MIT like me, instead of some party school.’ (The closest things to parties my undergrad had were the art students’ galleries.)
  • Recommended I drop out of my project management program: ‘You won’t be able to use that here.’
  • Told me, ‘Go work at McDonald’s or someplace easy for a few years, then re-apply. Your work gap is inexcusable.’ Mind you, I had five years of experience in engineering, and the gap was for extensive disease-related hand surgeries. When I explained this to her, she responded, ‘Obviously nature thinks you’re weak, so why would we want you?’

At that point, I walked out, thanked the secretary at the front desk, and went home to continue the job hunt. Perhaps ironically, a few years later, I ended up being the project manager for the construction company that demolished their building.”

 

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Yup

    These are all priceless. I think my favorite was the “he’s a French, but he’s okay” line. It’s just so magnificently awful.

    I’d wonder if I was being punk’d with hidden cameras. Or was unwittingly participating in some kind of bizarre workplace performance art.

    1. Jazzy Red

      I once worked for a company that was owned by a French Canadian firm. All of the management was French Canadian, and they spoke French to each other all the time. (It’s kind of disconcerting to see a bunch of people all speaking French, and then look at you.) I didn’t stay long.

  2. Brandy

    The link in the article for the weirdest job candidates sent me to an email address, not to the article. Thought you would want to know! :-)

      1. anon

        I believe it. I have a cousin who nursed her kids everywhere, naked from the waist up, including at a funeral.

        1. OliviaNOPE

          I also nursed my kids everywhere and have been lactating for, oh, the last decade. When I hear these stories I call BS. Most women are mortified about nursing in public to the point they refuse to do it. Even the most confident moms are worried about showing too much. Sorry, I am just not buying it.

            1. PJ

              I’m a California girl. Our state is overrun with women who feel they must share their nursing status with the world at large. Some of them are quite militant about it, too.

            2. Jamie

              The majority of nursing mothers I know are discrete – I personally didn’t nurse in public because it was awkward for me – but I have certainly been in the company of a handful over the course of my adult life who were showing way more than was necessary.

              As PJ mentioned, the ones I knew were militant about their right to do so – making a point. So just because the majority of people use discretion doesn’t mean these stories don’t happen.

            3. kelly

              I currently lived in a city which has attitudes and positions that are a bit more liberal than the rest of the state. One of those issues is breast feeding. A locally owned pizza place that opened up in the past month got some negative attention when the owner asked a breast feeding mother to move to a more discreet spot to nurse her baby. Depending on which story you heard, the mother was covered up (the mother and the breast feeding advocacy group) or her breast was fully exposed (the owner and some other patrons). My understanding is that under state law a mother has the right to feed in public and a business owner can’t ask them to move or place a blanket over their body. If a woman decides to feed exposed, then the person who is offended has to move. I’m for breastfeeding but feel if you have to do it in public, at least bring a blanket or towel to cover yourself up. Apparently, the breastfeeding group doesn’t feel that you need to be discreet and respectful of others. The owner ended up giving free pizza to mothers and kids one night to apologize for the incident.

              1. VintageLydia

                To be fair to the anti blanket side, some kids won’t nurse with one on. My son does, but sometimes he’ll pull it off anyway because he wants to look around or is even just messing with it.

          1. EW

            Yeah, I call shenanigans. I nursed my son for 2 years, and I really didn’t nurse him in public when he was a toddler. I only did it when he was tiny. He was a winter baby, so I had a nursing tank and a sweater on, and I showed less skin nursing than most teenagers show wearing a tank top and short-shorts. I didn’t “cover up” with an enormous blanket, but I was definitely covered up.

          2. Also was interviewed by a breastfeeding mother

            Wasn’t the interview in the mother’s home in the original anecdote? I paid special attention to that story (see screen name.)

          3. Ruffingit

            I totally buy it, I know a lot of nursing mothers who are downright militant about their right to nurse anywhere and everywhere. Which I don’t care about it, more power to them, I’m just saying I can see someone doing this.

      2. Anonymous

        Yeah some of these sound fake, but I realize that Alison is soliciting these from readers so the blame is not on her. They’re funny though!

      3. nameless

        I’m supprised it’s a big deal here, the country I come from women breastfeed in public with no quilms. I’ve seen enough breasts in public than i’ve seen in private

      4. Liz in a library

        Yeah, it’s crazy, but I think that poster has told that story here more than once over the years, so it must be true!

      1. Sascha

        Oh I laughed too, but then I felt really bad for the person who had to endure that comment and the sham of an interview.

    1. Shannon!

      “…a few years later, I ended up being the project manager for the construction company that demolished their building.”

      I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that provided so much satisfaction as that sentence.

      1. LJL

        Best. Followup. Ever. Apparently nature (or the market) thought the horrible interviewer was weak….

  3. Brandy

    I am currently working part-time while looking for a full-time position in my chosen field (just graduated in May and am now licensed in my profession) and I am extremely glad that while I may be hard up for a job, I’ve never had interviews like these!

  4. ChristineSW

    Oh. Em. Gee. Some of these are almost too crazy to believe, particularly #8!

    I remember #1…I’d love to see how that one turned out for the company. Emergency personnel don’t take too kindly to unwarranted calls!

    1. Rob Bird

      I received a call from the owner a couple weeks after this letting me know he was sorry this happened and that all three people on the interview panel had been let go. He asked if I was still interested in the position and I politely declined.

      The business has downsized to the point where it is the owner and one salesman.

      1. ChristineSW

        Glad the company had the grace to apologize for the incident and inform you of the actions taken. Thank you for that update!

      2. Ruffingit

        I cannot even imagine being an owner of a company and finding out my hiring team was doing things like that. I would be livid! It really does say something about this guy that he was willing to apologize to you and inform you of what had happened to dumb, dumber, and dumbest. Crazy that those people even thought that was appropriate.

      3. Melissa

        It’s so nice to hear about karma for some of these horrible interviewers, since I think their interview skills give clues to how they do business.

  5. WWWONKA

    Had an interview by an idiot that had a lot of job movement under his belt that was texting with his daughter while interviewing me. What an IDIOT.

        1. Forrest

          I read it for several moments, went away, came back and read it again. I just now figured out that WWWONKA was saying the boss had a lot of experience, not that he was turned on by his daughter lol

          1. Another Anonymous

            Not quite, if I am reading correctly (and it’s not sure that I am!), I think he means that there was a lot of “movement” out of site below the desk or in his lap because the interviewer had his phone in his lap and was using his cell phone to text the daughter…not that the interviewer had moved about in his career/job. Odd phrasing, but interesting confusion… :)

            1. Forrest

              That’s what I orignially thought but then was like…movement can’t text.

              I think it should be read like this:

              “Had an interview by an idiot, that had a lot of job movement under his belt, that was texting with his daughter while interviewing me. What an IDIOT.”

              1. Forrest

                Under this belt meaning he’d accomplished a lot, not referring to things that happen below the belt.

            1. WWWONKA

              OK funny folks, for clarification… This manager had a lot of jobs in his past which red flagged me. And. while he was interviewing me he was texting with his daughter.

  6. Mike C.

    I have a hard time believing that the interviewer in #8 went to MIT – hard core STEM schools are simply notorious for the amount of drinking and self medication that goes on to make it through the various programs.

        1. Jamie

          Ahem – or just wear it as a badge of pride that we managed to get an education in spite of also having a good time. :)

          1. Tony in HR

            Yeah, that’s the other type of party school alumni. :-)

            The school I received my BS from has a reputation as the drunkest school in my state (a notoriously dry state).

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

              The school I got my BA and MA from just got named (once again) the most stone-cold sober school in the nation. We celebrated by toasting with some chocolate milk. ;)

              1. GODUCKS!

                My alma mater was #20 on the top 20 party schools list. Just made it! GO UNIVERSITY OF OREGON DUCKS! ;)

            2. Melissa

              One of my closer friends graduated from Penn State, and this is typically the tack she took, lol.

          2. LJL

            That’s how we roll as alumni of a party school that’s consistently in the top 10 (for the past 20 years). :-)

  7. Anonymous

    Fortunately I didn’t have a story the first time around, but I do have one now! At a recent interview all of the candidates ended up in a room together for THREE hours (no interviewers present) all because the interviewers’ boss suddenly wanted to be on the interview panel and she was tied up in a seminar. We received no apology, no nothing. I was there from 9am to 2pm and all I got was a 15 minute interview with two people who could not have cared less. I no longer wanted the job after that completely dysfunctional experience. Some good did come out of it though, since the other candidates and myself used it as a networking opportunity.

    1. ChristineSW

      I like that! Make lemonade out of lemons! (or is it the other way around…?) In all seriousness, it’s great that you all took a crappy situation and turned into something positive.

  8. Emily

    These people are absolutely mind-boggling.

    I once had to sit through an interview where the two interviewers spent the vast majority of the time arguing over whose turn it was to ask the next question. When they weren’t bickering they were getting annoyed with me for trying to expand on my answers beyond one sentence and glared daggers at me if I preempted any of their future questions. They still made me repeat myself when said questions came up because god forbid if they deviated from the question order!

    1. Pussyfooter

      If you are an “Order of the Stick” online cartoon fan: Your interviewers totally remind me of the red and green guardians that the good guys must outsmart in strip #327 (in War and XPs).
      ;’)

  9. Sharon

    Haven’t we all had the kind of experience where we think “I was so happy when the ‘thanks but no thanks’ email came”? More to the point, with companies this bad, wouldn’t it be very gratifying to beat them to the punch?

    “Dear hiring manager, I regret to inform you that I will be pursuing companies that are a better fit for my skills. Good luck with your future hiring needs. Sincerely, Sharon”. LOL

    1. FD

      I feel you can even legitimately do this! If you feel after an interview that it’s just a hopelessly bad cultural fit, I don’t see any reason you can’t send a polite follow-up note that says something like:

      “Dear Jane:

      Thanks for taking the time to interview me for the position of Chocolate Teapot Designer. After much consideration, I feel that I’m not the best fit for your team at this time. I wish you the best of luck with your search.

      Regards,
      FD”

      1. Jamie

        If you’re absolutely 100% not interested, I think this is a great way to withdraw your candidacy. Why let them waste time keeping your name on the shortlist if you would never accept a position?

        It’s only rare because most of us aren’t 100% sure about walking away until all the cards are on the table.

        1. Marcy

          I’ve actually done that a few times. I hate having my time wasted on interviews when the employer is already planning an internal hire and only interviewing for show so I figure an employer wouldn’t want their time wasted either by jumping through all of the HR hoops to get an offer to someone only to have them turn it down. Strangely enough, turning them down seems to make them want you more. Every single time I have done it, they have called me either trying to talk me into taking the position anyway or even offering to create a new position for me that they think I would like better.

  10. Jennifer

    The “there was an earthquake and everyone was running around screaming” one cracked me up. I am a native Californian and I have never, ever seen anyone do that. Even when I was in kindergarten, nobody did that! Everyone knows to duck and cover, preferably under furniture, and then file out calmly. NO running, no screaming!

    1. Rana

      I know! That bit caught my eye too. Now, tornados will freak me out, but quakes? Eh, look around, avoid windows, get in a doorway, get under something sturdy. I don’t even have to think about it.

      1. Chinook

        If you use the same techniques for surviving a an earthquake as for surviving a tornado, in general you will be okay. Of course, if you are lucky enough to have an underground shelter, you should go there for a tornado, but other wise find yourself something sturdy and pray you are lucky and that is all you can do.

        1. Jamie

          We live in tornado country and don’t have a basement – we have only one interior room without windows. (Damn open floor floor plans and french doors!)

          Five people, multiple dogs and cats all huddled in one bathroom waiting for the all clear is just as much fun as you’d think it would be. Makes you want to take your chances of landing in Oz.

          1. Rana

            Yeah, it was bad enough hanging out in the tiny downstairs powder room in our previous place with one cat. ;)

          2. A Teacher

            It’s why as an Illinoisian, I won’t buy a house without a basement. Had a few tornados hit too close to home and people I know die.

            1. Jamie

              It’s so weird – the suburb in which I grew up everyone had a basement…I had never even heard of a house without one. Where I live now they are what my husband calls “slab” houses (classy, right?) with no basement and the house just sits on a slab 0f foundation.

              I miss having one every day, and I still resent having to store Christmas decorations in the family room closet and attic. Not as much as I miss having a place to go during a tornado warning which doesn’t make me rethink the whole idea of having a family …but as God is my witness I will not go basementless again.

          3. FreeThinkerTX

            I live in Tornado Alley, too, and when the sirens start blaring, I tuck each of my four cats into individual cat carriers before hunkering down in the hallway (the only non-window part of the house). That way if I lose a wall or some windows, my kitties won’t be able to escape and run out into the storm.

            If we take a direct hit, though, all bets are off for everyone in the house.

          4. Elizabeth West

            Me too, and I don’t either. My bedroom closet is the best I have. HATE tornadoes, I do.
            Although I do wish they’d suck the gumball trees out of my front yard. :P

      2. Diane

        I just learned that the Red Cross says doorways are now out of fashion, but furniture and windowless rooms are still the places to be. Like if we were earthquake hipsters or something.

    2. Chinook

      Umm…I am a flatlander who moved to Japan and experienced her first earthquakes there and even I knew that running around screaming wouldn’t help anyone! Now, waking up to mybed being shaken(reinforcing every childhood nightmare about a monster under the bed) did lead to loud screaming, but then I just moved to the doorway until the darn earth stopped moving. No running involved ever.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit

      I’m wondering if this was the Virginia earthquake a couple of years ago. DC and Philly (and others) felt it and most folks had no idea what to do (evacuate? Stay inside? Basement? Under the desk? Etc.)

      1. Jamie

        As a kid tornado drills were under your desk with your head down and covering the back of your neck with your linked hands.

        A first grade teacher was a little too graphic about what a flying piece of window glass could do to the back of your neck and her voice rings through my head with every tornado warning I hear.

        I’m pretty sure no matter what natural disaster befell me I’d be found dead under a grade schoolers desk with my hands around the back of my neck.

        1. fposte

          There was an art contest about 20 years ago to depict a nuclear shelter, and one contestant drew a humongous grade-school desk.

          Though I confess we have tornado schism here–our version was to lead us first into the windowless halls, then make us sit like that. Maybe they knew something about our desks.

        2. 22dncr

          This is the exact same position I was taught to get into for earthquakes in LA. The added bonus is, at one time, Jane Dixon the Psychic predicted that LA would be falling off into the ocean and my High School Principal believed her!!! IN LA! Then, after that calmed down, a friend decided a good way to get out of boring classes would be by setting off the Fire Alarm everyday. Fun Times!

        3. Julie

          That’s funny – that’s exactly the position we got in for “drop drills” in Southern California in the ’70s. The drills were because of the Cold War – somehow being in that position under the school desks was supposed to save us in case of a nuclear bomb attack. Even then; I knew it wasn’t going to help, but we just hoped we’d never need to find out.

          1. Julie

            maybe it was really supposed to protect us from flying debris due to earthquakes, but the teachers must have said something about nuclear bombs, or where would I have gotten the idea?

            1. 22dncr

              It was for the Bomb as I was in LA in the 70’s and had the same drills. I lived where all the planes were made (Lockeed, McDonald/Douglas, etc) and it was a real threat because of that. We also knew that this position was useless because of what most of our Parents were doing but you can’t argue with teachers – especially ones that believe Jean Dixon!!!

      2. Forrest

        Most of us just sat there wondering what it was before someone realized it was an earthquake.

        Then we continued to sit there wondering what to do before it stopped.

        1. Chinook

          I had that happen in Ottawa. Everyone initially wondered what am 18 wheeler was doing on our tiny side street and then I realized it was an earthquake and told my colleagues to get into the doorway. Once the shaking stopped, I told them to get their purses and head to the parking lot because the building was oldish. The ironic thing was, once we were outside, we all looked towards Parliament Hill to ensure it wasn’t an explosion (i.e. no smoke) and then waited to make sure we could go back in the building.

        2. Pussyfooter

          My 8th grade English teacher was 4-wheeling in California when they had a really big earthquake nearby. She said they didn’t know anything special had happened until they heard about it on the news…..

          She also said the scariest part of the trip was when they were in quicksand territory. Her husband got her to walk in front of the truck so it wouldn’t get stuck if they came to any quicksand.

      3. Felicia

        Where I live we never ever get earth quakes except there was one 2 years ago that everyone felt. First we just sat there confused “WTF is happening?” then we sat there wondering what to do, since our only exposure to earthquakes had come from TV. it was only a few minutes but it was weird.

      4. SAF

        I was wondering that too. I was on the 10th floor of a building at metro center when everything shook. Everyone’s first thought was “bomb?”

    4. PJ

      I once had a co-worker from Florida who quit her job and moved back to FL (Land of the Hurricane) the day after her first earthquake. Us natives took it in stride and didn’t understand what the kerfuffle was about.

      1. Chinook

        That’s because you don’t realize that the earth is the one thing that should be predictable and never, ever move! You probably also believe in strange things like the sun shining = guaranteed warmth, right?

    5. HR Gorilla

      Oddly, some of my favorite random memories of time spent with my son when he was littler (say 4-7 years old), come from tornado warning moments. I live in tornado alley, and when the sirens go off I’d carry my sleeping son into the only windowless interior room–a bathroom–and put him in the bathtub that I’d lined with sofa cushions. Then I’d grab my laptop and sit crosslegged on the floor next to to the tub, tracking the storm online. Once he was awake the odd time (seems the truly dangerous storms always strike at night, in my area anyway) and place made for some fun/random/fascinating mom/kid conversations.

      1. Elizabeth West

        We used to drag all our belongings (toys and such) out so we could save them. :) The house never got hit, but I remember one time we were all in the bathroom, and my dad and brother went into my parents’ bedroom on the southwest side of the house and hunkered down on the floor by one window, trying to see something. I got bored of the radar and went to the other window. The rain and thunder were pretty crazy, and then they slacked a bit, and we heard this *WWHUUPWHUUPWHUUPWHUUP* go over our heads.

        We were all 0_0 Then we went back into the bathroom and my mother got really mad at us for sitting by the windows.

        We later heard that storm had damaged outbuildings to the west of us. I’ll never forget that sound. I heard it again years later, when a storm went past the house an ex and I lived in, out in the country. He didn’t know what it was, but I did!

        1. Julie

          When I read the part about your belongings, it reminded me of a time when I was 10 or 11, and my younger brother and I were home alone when a fire started on the hillside in the neighborhood. We got out grocery bags and filled them with all of the photo albums. We also thought it would be important to save my dad’s cufflinks and my mom’s jewelry box and her bowling trophies!

            1. Pussyfooter

              nah. Your ok Julie.
              I once pondered what I’d miss most if the house caught on fire and I had seconds to wake up and climb out the window.
              The cat could be anywhere and would be too freaked out to cooperate–we’d die together–so the next most cherished thing is the pair of really beautifully illustrated fairy tale books someone gave me when I was a baby. Not my purse or important documents, of coarse.

    6. LJL

      Well, I witnessed an earthquake in a non-earthquake zone, and that’s what we clueless ones did: we screamed and looked out the window to see what was going on. :-) It had never occurred to most of us that it could be an earthquake on the Eastern Seaboard of the US. This wasn’t at work, though.

  11. Joey

    I interviewed someone that said “I think you should hire me because I’m black. You all need some more black folk around here.”

    I also once interviewed a guy who at the end of the interview said “so did I get it [the job]?” After I told him we’d contact him he said “what did I do wrong? If I didn’t get it just tell me now. Barbara didnt call you did she?”

    I also once interviewed someone who was “forced to quit” because after he filed an EEOC charge at the municipality he worked at the mayor and homeland security were spying on him and following him in unmarked cars trying to catch him doing something wrong so they could fire him. Turns out he quit before being fired when he “pulled over” the person tailing him and the driver wouldn’t admit he worked for homeland security.

      1. Pussyfooter

        #1 If he was trying out for a stand up comedy job, I’d hire him.

        #2 Why? What happened with Barbara?

        #3 Bullet dodged. But he still knows… that you know… that he knows that you are one of Them!

  12. Tony in HR

    My last job had a second interview with the Ops Manager. While we were interviewing, her husband, the owner, came to her window with a Weinerschnitzel bag and motioned for her to come eat (I was sitting in clear view). She motioned him inside, and they continued the interview together while he ate his onion-covered hot dog (she at least had the decency to not eat).

    Man, I wish I had followed my gut instinct to decline rather than take it because the money was so much better than my job at the time.

  13. Another Anonymous

    This is not the worst interview experience, but it still left me feeling oddly misunderstood! I once had a phone interview scheduled only one day in advance and that had to be at the time the organization offered because it was the only time all the interviewers could be scheduled. Even when I told the recruiter that I was moving and would have the movers at my house that day; it was still the ONLY option. That date and time or no interview. Because I was in the process of moving to the location where the job was open, I decided to work it out. So I took the call on my cell phone, sitting on the floor in an empty room while the movers were packing in other parts of the house. (And did I mention that the pc was already half-way across the country in our new location? So before the interview my realtor was kind enough to invite me to her house and let me use her computer to access and print out my resume and information on the job.) As the interview progressed it sounded to me as if the interviewers had not seen my resume and application because the answers to some of the questions were so plainly on my resume I would have expected the questions to be worded differently. For example, they asked me a question similar to “Tell us about a time when you worked in a corporate headquarters….” and because all the experience on my resume was in a corporate HQ, I would have expected the question to be more like “Tell me about your corporate HQ experience” or something more specifically about that corporate experience. Unfortunately it made it sound like they had no clue about my experience and I’m sure my confusion must have come across in my voice because the HR recruiter interrupted to say that all candidates were being asked the exact same questions. (Apparently I was the only external candidate interviewed and I had the broader management and corporate experience they were looking for. The internal candidates had direct experience with their specific process.) One of the questions they asked was if I knew the name of the head of their division. No, I did not. So I pretty well bombed that interview. Again, not the worst interview experience, but odd and unsettling because the questions were not tailored at all to my experience, but to some other set of standard questions that they could not deviate from.

    1. PJ

      “Apparently I was the only external candidate interviewed…”

      This is code for “We’re hiring our internal candidate and needed somebody from the outside to make it look like it was a fair interview.”

      1. Jamie

        I HATE that! If you have someone internal that you want, that’s great! I’m a big believer in promoting from within…but the companies with arbitrary rules which make you waste the time of others just for the sake of appearances annoy me to no end.

        1. Ruffingit

          Yes, there’s nothing better than prepping for an interview and wasting gas money when every cent counts because you’ve been unemployed for so long only to be told in so many words that you’re the “token” external candidate.

    2. voluptuousfire

      A few years ago I had a direct employer contact me after finding my resume online. She asked if I could chat with her for a few moments. I said yes and she then launches into an impromptu phone screen, starting with “what made you apply to XYZ company?” I had never applied to the company and never actually heard of them, so I answered “well, I really can’t answer that question because you did contact me directly. I didn’t apply.” She didn’t like that and the call went downhill from there. The recruiter at the company turned out to be a bit nuts.

      A few weeks later, I got a rejection email from XYZ company. That’s my story on the job I got rejected for without ever applying. :D

      1. Ruffingit

        I remember you mentioning this before and I was hoping you’d come back to tell the story. That is so bizarre!

  14. Track Star

    Highlights of bad interviews include:
    – doing work to get the interview, then being given more of the same work in 2 of the interviews (interviewers said, “here’s some work for you to do while I sit at my desk.”), HR demanded to know my salary requirements but would not tell me their salary range.
    – after submitting a work assignment, I had a phone interview w/the hiring manager which went very well. I was then invited for a 3 hour group interview, which went very wrong. 1st interviewer told me that the job description was wrong and never received my work assignment, 2nd interviewer told me that there was no position and never received my work assignment; 3rd interviewer didn’t know that there was no position and also didn’t receive my work assignment; 4th interview was w/hiring manager who, when I expressed concerns that the team didn’t receive my assignment, swore that they did and then when I said that one of the interviewers said that there was no position, in a weak voice said that they thought that it was mentioned in the phone interview -it wasn’t.
    – had a 45 min phone interview w/HR, then had in-person interview w/VP who complained the whole time that the interview order was out of order and was wondering where the hiring manager was, also had never seen my resume, kept saying that the job was below me, and would not answer any of my questions. Had a great 2nd interview w/hiring manager. At the 3rd interview w/same HR person from phone interview, HR person handed me the full job description. This wasted all of our time for if I had seen the full jd, I wouldn’t have applied.

  15. JM in England

    My worst interview experience to date went like this. I was about 3 years out of uni and working a contract job (these were all that were available in my field at the time with it being the last major recession); therefore I was interviewing whilst my contract lasted andwas in a relatively strong position. My interviewer, who came across as exceedingly arrogant, said whilst I was describing my employment history to date “I see that your current job is a contract; I bet they get you to do all of the donkey work!” all with a smug grin on his face. Understandably, I was mortified by this and could only manage a non-commital squeak in response. Now that I’m more worldly-wise, I would have said “Excuse me, but I came here to be interviewed, not insulted!” and walked out. But I was naive back then and was desperate to land another job. You can probably guess I did not get this one…………..

  16. Erik

    I loved the one with 911. I’m sure that they had a lot of explaining to do to the local police. They don’t take that lightly.

    I worked at one company and suddenly noticed two police officers walking around checking things out. I asked them if they needed anything and apparently someone called 911 from our location. There were few people in the building, but I went through it with them and found nothing.

  17. Miss Displaced

    I’m a designer, so you are always expected to take your portfolio with you on interviews. One time I arrived for an interview, book in hand, at 8 a.m. to find three others waiting in line for the same interview.

    The woman proceeded to call us in one-by-one, where she flipped through the pages of your work and then without comment excused us. The whole time, she was smoking, and her ashes dropped onto my portfolio, melting a hole in the plastic. She never even apologized!

    Nasty woman. Glad I didn’t get that job!

  18. Elizabeth West

    #8– “Perhaps ironically, a few years later, I ended up being the project manager for the construction company that demolished their building.”

    ZING!!!! :D

  19. crookedfinger

    I went to an interview once where the interviewer kept looking me up and down while talking to me with somewhat of a disbelieving/unimpressed look on her face. She’d also ask if I thought I could keep up with the job after almost every once of those “glances,” like she didn’t believe what I was telling her about my abilities. That happened probably 4 or 5 times during the course of the 45 minutes or so that I was in there. It was really weird and off-putting.

    Thinking about it later, I’m pretty sure she had the whole “fat people are slow and/or lazy” stereotype going on in her head, between the disbelief and the constant glances. It’s not like I wasn’t wearing anything weird, just a normal black suit with a solid-colored tank under it.

    She also left the room at one point to go chat on her cell phone on what was obviously not a work-related call for about 15 minutes, leaving me in the room with the guy who did the job at that time. He and I had a lovely interview together…which she made me repeat when she finally came back into the room.

    I wasn’t disappointed at all when she emailed me to say they’d gone with someone else. Noooo thank you.

  20. little Cindy Lou who

    A recruiting agency sent me on an interview for a financial analyst role with an advertising and media licensing firm. I met first with the VP of HR who proceeded not to ask me a single question but just to tell me in the most deadpan and bored tone ever that the culture was terrible, they didn’t have enough people, and you would never get a raise only a title like VP. Next came the VP of Finance who asked me why I thought I’d be a good fit for this role. I started discussing my experience and successes within financial analysis, but he kept trying to rephrase the question until he finally said “I think you’re over qualified.” Seeing that I was at this point perplexed, he asked what job I thought I was interviewing for. I rattled off the description of the job the agency had sent me. Apparently that job had been filled weeks ago and he thought I was there applying for a data entry job.

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