confess your job search sins here

Unless you sprung into the world with perfect job search knowledge, you’ve probably made some embarrassing mistakes as a job seeker at one point or another. Maybe you showed up without an appointment, or called employers to “schedule an interview,” or sent a framed photo of yourself to your interviewer, or contorted yourself into the candidate you thought the employer wanted rather than screening to see if the job fit you.

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made while job searching? And what (if anything) led you to those things, and how did you figure out you should do things differently?

{ 827 comments… read them below }

  1. GigglyPuff*

    I don’t have any, thank goodness. But last week on the way to work, one of the radio stations was talking about doing everything we say on this site not to, to get a job! Send food, stop by, call, etc…because it had worked out for the DJ, I think he sent something and maybe a creative out of the box resume or something (can’t remember the specifics), but when I started yelling at the radio in the car, I realized I needed to change the station before I called in and starting yelling at the DJs.

  2. AMD*

    Right after graduating I sent employers both my 2 page résumé and a sixteen page document I titled “curriculum vitae” with duties and accomplishments of each of my ten or twelves internship rotations at school… Then I found Ask A Manager and deleted that wretched document ASAP.

    1. Jerzy*

      I have had many interns hand me multiple page resumes to check over for them and seem straight up insulted when I said they needed to cut it down to a page.

      I told them once they get some more real work experience (like another 10 years) they can have another page, but as a recent or soon-to-be graduate, they’ve only earned one, no matter how stellar a student they have been.

      1. Anonymous Ninja*

        I had a friend who worked in a university telling the graduate students, “you’re a graduate student! You MUST have a resume that is multiple pages.” I tried to dissuade her from offering the advice, but she just didn’t get it.

        1. hiccup*

          That is indeed true for academia and academics (presumably these graduate students were bound for academic jobs).

          1. Anna*

            Not all graduate students are bound for academia, which just highlights that career advisors shouldn’t be giving blanket advice.

        2. Artemesia*

          Academia is different. A senior person may have a vita that is 20 pages easily. A two page or less resume is not going to cut it if one is seeking an academic job. There is a format which includes room for every presentation and publication one has ever had and things like Phi Beta Kappa and assorted honors and awards are expected. So yeah, a graduate student looking for academic work will have a multiple page vita if they have accomplished anything.

          1. College Career Counselor*

            Longest CV I ever saw was when I was a work-study student back in college. Distinguished senior professor and dean had a FIFTY-FIVE page document. He went on to work for another 17 years after that, so I can only imagine what it looked like by then.

            1. Lizzie*

              One of the faculty members in my MSW program had an incredibly long CV as well, when I was working with him on an independent study.

              In fact, I just went to check, and it is now 73 pages long. 73!

              1. OhNo*

                Goodnes gracious, that’s not a CV, that’s a book! Why not just write an autobiography and hand that to the hiring manager?

            2. Looby*

              In Old Job I was asked to format and update a professor’s CV; 123 pages worth. At least he was in his sixties so hopefully not going to continue adding to it for too many more years!

            3. Cath in Canada*

              I’m a grant writer/facilitator in academia, and I can attest that this isn’t unusual! If the funding agency doesn’t have a page restriction on CVs, and you have three or four senior professors on the same application, the CVs alone can run to a couple of hundred pages. And then the pages and pages of summaries of their other grants. And sometimes the proposal is only 6 pages o_O

      2. april ludgate*

        I was working at a college job fair today and had a freshman hand me his two-page resume that listed literally everything he did in high school… none of it was actual work experience.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          It’s quite possible he didn’t have any work experience to include. A college senior listing only HS stuff is a bad sign; a freshman may not have anything else to list other than activities and sports until they get their first job.

          1. Hlyssande*

            That, and students in high school are heavily, ridiculously encouraged to participate in as many extra curriculars as they possibly can with vague reasoning like ‘colleges love it’ and ‘it will help you get a job’. That’s how it came across to me, at least, that they were supposed to be part of an initial resume.

      3. Bri*

        My sister in law was having problems getting a job so I offered to look over her resume. It was 5 pages and included several jobs she volunteered with for just one weekend. I was horrified. She’s 22.

    2. Kelly O*

      I work with a company who does clinical research. Those C.V.s and resumes go on for pages. It’s unnerving to me to see that after trying so long to pare mine down and make it impactful. But for what these people do, it’s quite easy for an experienced professional to have nearly ten pages of material to present, particularly if they’ve done research papers or massive trials.

      Although I will say it highlights the importance of knowing your field and how things work. What makes perfect sense for one role or profession may be completely outlandish for another.

      1. Vicki*

        I was in a “resume workshop” (offered to me after a layoff). ONe of the women in thew workshop had been a bench scientist at a Big Pharma and had to explain to the other people in the room that a 10-page CV was normal, accepted, and expected.

  3. BRR*

    Mine isn’t too bad, I applied for a job at the organization where I was an intern at the time. I was an inexperienced student who hadn’t found AAM yet so I had no idea who to address the cover letter or email to (you sent your materials to a generic HR email). I took a stab and put the head of HR but just saved the email as a draft with my materials attached and that I would check with my boss and after just send it from my phone if I didn’t need to make changes. The next day my boss said that was fine so I sent it and 20 minutes later an HR manager called my extension saying that it had sent without anything attached. Thankfully I was an intern because I’m not sure I would have been interviewed after that.

    1. BRR*

      Also I’m taking a half day today and am really excited to read through all of these.

      Side note, I applied to organization last week with its application and hiring process listed on their website. There is a FAQ section and one question is who to address your cover letter to, they tell you to just put Hiring Manager and it doesn’t matter. That would have been helpful for this story but I’m also taking it as a good sign they put that on their website.

  4. Ugh*

    I once cold-emailed an ad agency to see if they had any internships open. I received a reply from their CEO pretty much berating me for writing why I’d be a good intern rather than why i wanted to work for that company in particular. He ended the email with the words “try again.” I tried again, this time sucking up to him and telling him why his company was great, based entirely on the info from their website. He then responded by saying that I can come in for an interview at X:XX tomorrow. I was so angry at him that I just no-showed.

    I felt bad for a little while until I saw in the news that he was involved in a sexual harassment case with a female employee.

    1. Patty*

      He did you a huge favor by not ignoring it completely. Me had no duty to tell you what you were doing wrong, or to interview you.

      1. Honeybee*

        Sure, but a favor is diminished if the provider feels the need to berate a new grad for not knowing industry norms.

  5. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I wrote many, many cover letters of the “I am applying for X Job, please see my resume attached,” in very formal language including “Dear Sir and/or Madam,” and so on.

    For a job I desperately wanted I dug up the email addresses of not only the hiring manager (I assumed) but MULTIPLE other employees and emailed them all expressing my interest and amazing qualifications. Why didn’t I get that job? It’s almost like an entire office did not appreciate my constant hassle and spam!

    I wrote a cover letter about how much I’d enjoy the job since it was close to my house.

    1. BRR*

      We get sales reps who do that but they only message senior level managers. Then we get an email from our VP asking if we know about this teapot lid making tool. A) We’re pissed they didn’t contact us, it’s not confusing who to contact B) Their products are never the greatest.

      1. AFT123*

        As a sales person, I can tell you that the point of going above first is because you’re much more inclined to look into something your VP asks you to vs. looking into something a sales person brings to your attention. It’s a tried-and-true sales methodology.

        1. BRR*

          Ahh interesting. And that’s certainly true. As a sales person, has it been discussed how it starts off on the wrong foot with the users of the product (and if that sounds like I’m being a jerk about it I don’t intend it that way, I’m genuinely curious)?

        2. PhoenixBurn*

          We had a salesperson contact me (HR Manager) instead of the CFO/VP to look at our payroll/hris system at the beginning of the year. I have no authority to make these decisions, but his philosophy was that if I liked the product, I’d advocate for the change and if I didn’t, then he didn’t want to sell it to the company since ultimately I’m the end user. (No outside relationship with this guy at all, this is the first I had met him or heard of his company.)

          We’re in the middle of our conversion now…

    2. Three Thousand*

      Yeah, I wrote a lot of those “Dear Sir or Madam” cover letters too. I was told to do that and just had no way of knowing any better.

        1. Three Thousand*

          People seem to prefer “Dear Hiring Manager” here. As far as I can tell, the specific greeting itself isn’t the issue as much as the pompous, overly formal, and overwritten style that tends to accompany it.

        2. Melissa*

          AAM usually recommends “Dear hiring manager” if you don’t know the person who’s going to be on the receiving end of it.

          1. Lexi*

            I tend to use “Dear Hiring team” since in most cases, I end up speaking with a junior recruiter, then a senior recruiter, then possibly a hiring manager, and maybe a team member or three before being called in for the in person interview. I’m in market research so being able to work well with lots of different people is important so I think they do the “dog and pony” show before the in person interviews.

    3. E*

      “Dear Sir/Madam” isn’t terrible. I work at an international development organization where 80% of the staff is non-American, and the woman who posts jobs for our team usually writes “please send your resume to Jane Smith at [email]” at the end of the listing. Despite this, she has received an absurdly high number of cover letters that start with “Dear Sir” or “Dear Mrs. Jane Smith”.

      1. Chameleon*

        Some cultures greatly value married women more than single women, and a “Mrs.” in the salutation is a sign of respect, to the point of female PhDs reverting themselves as “Dr. Jane Smith (Mrs.).

        So annoying, yes, but they may feel like addressing it to just Jane Smith would be like starting the letter “Hi, Jane”.

        1. gender neutral names*

          The (Mrs) probably also has something to do with their names not being obviously gendered. People with gender-neutral or foreign names are generally assumed to be male. I am American and I sign my emails with Firstname Lastname (Ms.) because otherwise I get “Dear Mr. Lastname”.

        2. Jen RO*

          I doubt most Romanians speaking English would have any clue about the distinction between Ms. and Mrs. Romanian doesn’t have an equivalent for Ms. and people generally “Miss” you when you look younger and “Mrs” you when you look older. It’s not a matter of respecting married women more – actually, many women feel flattered when they are called “Miss”, implying they look younger than their years. (It’s obviously not impossible to get married young, but “Miss”-ing an older woman is meant as a compliment here. Usually. Unless you mean she’s an old hag who no one would ever marry. But that should be clear from the context.)

          In formal address, it’s always “Mrs” and “Mr” (never “Miss”), and yes, sending a letter to (just) Jane Smith would feel way too informal to me and most likely many others.

    4. Sunflower*

      You last line makes me laugh but also wondering. I was recently applying for jobs in the city I live in(aprox 1 mile from my apt aka walking distance) and working in the burbs(about a 45 min commute). When interviewers asked me about why I was interested in the job, I told them the usual(growth, challenges, variety) and almost all of them would kind of quip at the end ‘yeah it’s also a lot closer to your house!’

      I didn’t really know how to answer that. Yes that was part of the reason I was applying but I certainly wasn’t going to take any random job just because it was close to me. I would just kind of awkwardly laugh and say ‘yes it is closer’ but eekkkk it always made me feel uncomfortable.

      1. NK*

        It’s OK to have multiple reasons for wanting to work at a certain company, and some of those reasons can be about your personal convenience! Your interviewers are humans who presumably don’t love to spend hours a day commuting either. So it’s perfectly normal that they think you would be interested in the job at least in part because it will be a significant improvement in your work/life balance. If that’s the only reason, that’s an issue. But there’s nothing wrong with saying, “yes, the location is icing on the cake!” or something like that after talking about the other reasons you’re interested. If you can’t come up with any reasons why you want to work there other than the location, that’s when it’s an issue.

        1. CM*

          I do remember one interviewer who made a joke about knocking on my door when he needed extra help.
          Cue frozen smile – and never mentioning distance in an interview again!

      2. LookyLou*

        I live right downtown and a lot of interviewers note that I practically live next-door. When mentioned I always drop the fact that it would be highly beneficial to them because I would have no transportation issues due to weather or traffic.

      3. MommaTRex*

        I like it when applicants mention that they are looking for a shorter commute (especially for lower level jobs). I know that they will be OK with a small or no increase in pay because the time and money they save will more than make up for it. Plus, it shows that they are smart enough to not put “my boss is horrible and we don’t get along” as their reason for leaving.

      4. Kyrielle*

        I responded to that one with “Yes, and that’s a nice bonus from my point of view!” (Yes it is, yes I like that fact, yes it’s a positive – no it’s not my main reason for applying.)

      5. Not So NewReader*

        I have just said, “Oh my, yes! And it’s an added bonus for you, because you know I can get here when other people are digging out from that nine foot snow storm. You know I will be here because I am so close! And when everyone wants to leave early, I am willing to stay so they can go.”

        For myself, I can add that I have been given emergency keys because of living so close by. But don’t say that if it is not true.

      6. Observer*

        I’d think that “well that helps” would be a good come back. It acknowledges that truth of the issue, but makes it clear that you are not just looking for anything that happens to be close enough to roll over to.

    5. Anx*

      The funny thing is, working near your house can make the difference between treating a job as a stepping stone and trying to establish a long time career somewhere.

      I know you can never saaaay that, but for jobs where passion is hard to muster (or is difficult for people to take seriously), little things like that can make such a huge difference. I’m pretty passionate about not having to walk far home alone at night and not taking out an auto loan for a job that may or may not work out.

  6. UKAnon*

    Rather minor, but I once decided to turn down a job but didn’t have an email, so I sent one to a generic email address and didn’t send back the contract. Then left it for three weeks. Then carefully was “busy” when they started calling to ask why I hadn’t started.

    In the end one of their voicemail messages gave an email address, so I sent a quick email to that saying I hadn’t returned the contract as I didn’t want the job and had tried to email. It was silly, and embarrassing, but I was scared of saying no. I still get intimidated by turning jobs down (and don’t get me started on resigning!) but at least now I know it’s just as intimidating *and* also embarrassing to dodge it completely.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Ooh, I forgot I had one like this: They called me after the interview and scheduled a time for me to come over. When I got there, they told me I had gotten the job and gave me a contract to sign on the spot– but the pay (which I had naively not asked about) was really bad. So I froze up, asked for time to think, and left. Then I ignored their phone calls, and finally waited until I knew they were closed– like, midnight– and left a voicemail. Not my finest moment.

      1. Kasia*

        Honestly asking someone to sign a contract on the spot is pretty presumtious. I think asking for time to think about it is more mature than signing without putting any thought into it

        1. Betsy*

          I accepted my current job by being pressured by my manager to decide on it immediately. Now I know I should’ve taken it for the giant red flag that it was.

      2. Hush42*

        I once sent in my resume, responding to a craigslist ad, in the morning and that afternoon they called and asked if I could start the next day. No interview no anything. I suspect that it stemmed from the fact that my mother had worked there in a different position a few years before. It was still really weird and I should have known better but it was my first job out of college and I desperately needed a job. Six weeks later they called on a Monday morning right before I walked out the door to let me know that they had run out of work for me and that I shouldn’t come in. Yes I should have asked more questions before I started but I was naive. I gues syou live and learn.

        1. Boo*

          I got this once from a bar I worked at for two weekends. “Hey’s slow right now, but we’ll call you once it picks up and we have the money to pay you.”

    2. Kairi*

      I once received a job offer, but upon further research I had found out that the role I was filling had been replaced 4 times in one year (which seems like a bad sign). When I received the offer via phone, I told them I had decided I was going to look for jobs closer to home because I didn’t want to get talked into the position. It was awkward, and I hated the high pressure sell while trying to politely get off the phone.

      1. Dan*

        I got the high pressure sell when I turned down an offer. And I’m talking about a mid-level IC white collar job. I was like, WTF? You expect your applicants to take rejection like a grown up, that street goes both ways.

        They even had the CEO call me. I was pretty pissed about the whole thing.

        1. alter_ego*

          Depending on when this happened, that also seems like a pretty big red flag. In the current economy, I doubt there are a ton of jobs that don’t have multiple qualified applicants applying to them, at least at the entry and mid-level.

        2. Shan*

          Yep, I went through the same thing! At the end of college I met a recruiter for a hotel chain at a job fair and landed an interview for an event planner position. After my interview, the recruiter called and offered me a front desk position. I was really disappointed because I worked at a property for a few years, and had a higher title and better pay than that already. I turned them down and when the recruiter started the hard sell I knew I made the right choice.

          A year later, a friend went through the exact same thing with this company but ended up taking the job. She quit within a few months and said management was a disaster. Whew, bullet dodged!

    3. Monodon monoceros*

      I avoided a job offer many years ago. I was pretty sure i didn’t want to live where the job was, but when they offered me a trip to interview I went. It was a highly sought after job but I couldn’t bring myself to move to that area. I was young, and stupid so when they left me a voicemail to offer me the job i avoided it. Now I feel really bad for wasting everyone’s time, especially for the other candidates waiting to hear back.

    4. Shan*

      This was my big mistake when I started job hunting after college. A professor helped me get an interview, but I learned the job wasn’t what I’d thought it would be, and the head honcho of the organization had to track me down to get my answer! It was embarrassing and I still can’t believe I did that, but my professor and I kept in touch and he seemed to hint that it wasn’t a big deal and I’d made the right choice with the job I ended up taking. I think I was scared of looking like I’d wasted their time. Luckily, I’ve grown up a lot and feel much more comfortable being upfront in these situations now.

  7. De Minimis*

    Had a poorly written resume with a lot of typos and grammatical errors—for a job as a technical writer!

    1. Jen RO*

      I’m involved in hiring a bunch of new technical writers at the moment… the mistakes, the bad English, the weird spaces before punctuation! We are not requiring any prior experience, but can’t they at least reread their damn resumes before they send them out?!

      1. Career Counselorette*

        I’m working remotely on a side project with some non-English speaking collaborators, and I spent 2/3 of my time having to close spaces between periods, commas, and parentheses. They wrote every sentence ( which was already confusingly written ) like this , and it was a huge pain . Is this normal in Europe?

        1. Phoenix*

          Oh man, that would just kill me. I think I’d end up dusting of my Perl skills and writing a script to handle that for me!

        2. Stephanie*

          That sucks. But if you’re still having to do that, I’d try using Find & Replace. Find all instances of ” , ” and replace it with “, ” and do so for each symbol. It still sucks, but maybe not as bad?

          1. Mockingjay*

            I do this all the time (F&R). Some of the older engineers double space after periods. Harks back to typewriting (and yes, I started on a typewriter).

            I once had a month’s long argument with a senior engineer, trying to explain to him how modern fonts and word processing or publisher programs can manage the spacing for you. He couldn’t understand how it could possibly work and still insisted on two spaces after a period.

            Mind you, he was the senior engineer on a software program.

            1. HeyNonnyNonny*

              Sad fact: In my office, we are still required to double space after periods for all correspondence.

              1. OfficePrincess*

                I attempted to test out of keyboarding classes in a post-degree certificate I was working on. Because I didn’t double space after periods (it wasn’t in the instructions, I was just supposed to do it after having had it beaten out of me in college), I had to start at level 2 out of 5.

            2. Employee 427*

              Really? I was always taught two spaces after a period throughout school (this was in the mid- to late-2000s)

              1. Retail Lifer*

                Yeah, everyone acts like this is has been the standard forever, but this is what I was taught in middle school and high school (I graduated from high school in the 90’s). It was acceptable for college the first time I went, and also still in the late 00’s when I went back. And as you can clearly see, I STILL DO IT.

                1. Persephone Mulberry*

                  I’m reading this thread on my lunch break and had to throw in a late comment. Actually, we CAN’T see that you still do it, because the internet magically strips extraneous spaces.

                  I also learned two spaces after a period in keyboarding (mid-90s) and only recently have trained myself out of it. Sometimes if I’m writing something long or complex and get in the zone, muscle memory will still take over and I have to F&R to remove them.

              2. Honeybee*

                Yeah, I was taught that too. I later learned that the reason for it comes from typewriters – old school typewriters used monospaced fonts in which each letter was the same width; you used two spaces for clarity: it was a clear visual marker of where a sentence ended. I think early computers mostly used monospace fonts, too (think Courier). But we now mostly use fonts in which each letter has a different width and the space is automatically calibrated to show distance between two sentences, so we only need one – and two looks too big. However, like anything else, transitions are hard. SO typing teachers and programs still taught us to use two spaces instead of one.

            3. Ad Astra*

              I learned to type on a computer and stupid Mavis Beacon still taught me two spaces after a period! I didn’t learn the error of my ways until I was working for the college newspaper and my copy was messing up the design.

              I work in communications at a company where most people are just average (or worse) at writing and not particularly tech savvy, so most of them still double space after a period. Find and replace is my best friend.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              I double space after periods because it’s the default in Word and I can’t be arsed to reformat everything. And I do it in manuscripts too, unless there is some wonky submission direction not to. It’s not that big a deal.

              In my tech writing class, the instructor required one space. That nearly drove me crazy.

              1. techandwine*

                Oh man, do NOT double space after a period when submitting manuscripts. I have a lot of friends who work as editors/agents and it drives them bonkers. It definitely makes you look out of touch with current publishing/copy norms and it automatically gives you a tick in the negative column.

            5. BananaPants*

              I’m in my mid-30s and still double space after periods. I know Word can handle it for me, but it was drilled into my head in my middle school typing classes and it’s a very hard habit to break after 20-odd years.

              1. De Minimis*

                Same here, I think I was one of the last generation of students to learn to type on an actual typewriter [late 1980s.] I still do the double space–I’m not in a field where anyone would care or notice.

              2. Jen S. 2.0*

                Me too, and for the same reason. I also think it looks better to have a bigger visual separation between sentences. I know people think it’s old-fashioned, but I don’t care. (They also will pry the Oxford comma from my cold, dead hands.)

              3. Honeybee*

                I’m in my late 20s and I managed to successfully train myself out of double spaces, but man oh man was it difficult.

            6. Observer*

              If someone were just doing two spaces after the period, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. The other stuff is just sloppy – it’s NEVER been standard, and it has not even become a topic of “possible discussion.” The kindest explanation I can think of is that they are using a phone for this stuff and the keyboard does this. But, that seems unlikely, and they should be checking what they are doing.

        3. Melissa*

          From what I’ve observed, it’s fairly common in French to put a space before exclamation and question marks, but it’s not particularly common in Spanish. Not sure about Italian or other European languages.

        4. VictoriaHR*

          Oh god the editing. I recruit software engineers, many of whom are from India, and they capitalize every 2nd or 3rd word. I Will Not Send It To The Client Looking Like This. So half of my job is editing the resumes.

          WTB a Word add-on that will do this for me.

          1. Keep Summer Safe*

            Believe it or not, there are times when this makes some amount of sense, at least within the context of a technical document. It seems to be an artifact of OO programming, where if you’re referring to a class of things, the name of that class will be capitalized. Sometimes this can be helpful. But it’s often abused.

            (Or maybe they read a lot of German publications).

            1. Myrin*

              Well, German doesn’t capitalise willy-nilly so even if they did, they wouldn’t feel the need to capitalise every (random) word.

        5. Cath in Canada*

          My husband types like that! I’ve tried to point out that it’s decidedly not normal, but he doesn’t seem interested in training himself out of the habit. He never needs to write anything for work, not even emails, so it’s not hurting him professionally – it just makes me twitch when I see it on Facebook.

        6. Jen RO*

          No, it’s not normal (unless they’re French, which does have some extra spaces). The spacing rules are the same in Romania and in the US… but some people just don’t care. Fine, but don’t apply to a writing job!

      2. ElCee*

        I’ll apply! LOL.
        I am peeved on your behalf–I’m trying to break into technical writing and jobs not requiring prior TW experience are hard to come by! You’d think English majors would jump at that chance.

        1. Jen RO*

          I’m not in the US, so… yeah :D Technical writing is just starting as a profession here, that’s why we are hiring people without experience.

    2. BRR*

      Ugh this is like my current job hunt. Nothing huge really but when I copy and paste some cover letter language or the email message for sending my materials, I see a huge glaring typo. These aren’t writing positions at least but require some writing skills.

    3. Businesslady*

      oh man, right out of college I applied for an entry-level job I was *so* excited about–mainly because it was the Midwest office of a West Coast company, so the hours were like 10am-6pm (perfect for someone still on a student schedule).

      they never called me for an interview though, & I strongly suspect it’s because I transposed two letters in the company name–like, consistently throughout the cover letter. think “Ask a Maganer.” & considering that my main selling points at that stage of my career were “good writer” & “attention to detail,” I can imagine that was pretty damning.

      1. Manders*

        It’s Muphry’s law at work! Now I always get someone else to look at my cover letters for copy editing positions, because I seem to be completely blind to my own mistakes even though I have no problem spotting errors in text I didn’t write.

        1. Squirrel*

          A trick that I learned years ago from somewhere (wish I could give credit) is to read whatever you have written backwards. Your brain will have a tougher time figuring it out and filling in the blanks for you as it would do if you were reading it forwards (e.g. ignoring the second “the” in those “double the” brain teasers, The flowers in the the spring are so pretty), so it makes it somewhat easier to catch mistakes. I’ve also found printing off the document and hand-editing it is much more helpful than trying to edit it on a computer screen.

          1. Ann*

            Yes, this! I’ve done this and it works great. Just beware of homonyms, because you’re not reading the words in context.

      2. SallyForth*

        A friend got a resume for work in her marketing company and the person mentioned their excellent writing and proofing skills in his previous “pubic relations” position. They posted it on the office wall with names blacked out.

        1. Gene*

          I work in Public Works. At some point in PriorJob, someone changed the technical drawing template to read Gotham City Pubic Works. When it was noticed by someone who mattered – I’m sure some had noticed before, but no one would admit to it – they looked and it had apparently been that way for almost 6 months. Part of the reason it hadn’t been noticed was that is was in some Olde English type script with lots of flourishes, but the was definitely no “l” in it.

    4. yuzaprut*

      A friend told me about an interview he had a few years ago. They brought him in for a technical interview by the entire group. At the end, someone said, “We only have one more question. We’re assuming there’s a typo on your resume and you actually meant you’re willing to do SHIFT work?”. Regardless, or perhaps because of this, he did receive an offer.

    5. techandwine*

      I saw so many of these when I was interviewing for new technical writers, they immediately went in my “nope” pile because I couldn’t believe they’d submit without proofreading. I felt bad for doing it, but we didn’t have an editor in place and everyone was expected to edit for everyone else, so I needed to know their skills were on point.

    6. oranges & lemons*

      One time I was interviewing for a technical writer position, and noticed that one of the candidates misspelled the word “editing” in her resume.

    7. Colleen*

      I was an English major working my way through school as a file clerk at an insurance company. I applied for a writing position (I forget what type: marketing or PR or something like that). I didn’t get an interview (or even a response). I saw the hiring manager at work and asked her, in the hallway, why I hadn’t gotten an interview. [I KNOW!] She told me it was because I had a fragment in my cover letter. I argued with her [YEP, IT GOT WORSE!] that I had done that on purpose, for stylistic reasons.

  8. Jerzy*

    My biggest job search disaster resulted from not planning my route more carefully.

    I knew I would take the train into the city where the interview was, and I figured that I could just walk to the building using my phone’s GSP to guide me. GPS doesn’t work so great on foot, since it has trouble keeping track of such a slow-moving object.

    I ended up lost in a not so safe city… during the height of the summer… in a suit… wandering around for several hours (fortunately, I had given myself ample time, expecting I’d stop somewhere for lunch (that didn’t happen).

    By the time I reached the interview, I was drenched in sweat and my face was beet red from sunburn and exertion. I did splash some water on my face before sitting down to talk, but the damage was done. I was too exhausted to think clearly, and I hadn’t eaten that day.

    That’s one job I didn’t get.

    1. WrongTrain*

      I made a similar mistake, only in some ways worse – I had been in once for an interview already, and for some reason remembered which subway I was supposed to take incorrectly. This was in NYC, where the subways tend to overlap quite a bit in midtown but then branch out in totally different directions in the further-out parts of Manhattan, and I had remembered it as needing to take train X, not train Y, when it turned out it was the other way around. I ended up 20 blocks from my intended destination, in a neighborhood where cabs are nearly nonexistent, in a skirt suit and heels, on the coldest day of the year. (Weirdly, I think the weather is what saved me – even though I’d sprinted 20 blocks, all the sprinting did was ensure I didn’t get frostbite, instead of making me sweaty-looking.)

    2. DMented Kitty*

      See, this is my fear. Whenever I need to show up for an appointment at a place I haven’t been before, I double-, triple-check the route, print out a map, as well as have my phone fully-charged for GPS use.

      I still manage to get lost in some way, though, but luckily not that far out — but I have met quite interesting (if not creepy) people along the way.

    3. Fred*

      I tend to get very nervous in unfamiliar situations, and sometimes it gets really bad. I would panic and run away.

      I applied for a job as a programmer once, and the interview was basically a practical test. I was so nervous that when I sat down in front of the computer, my mind went completely blank. I could remember nothing. Didn’t even know how to start. After staring at the screen for about 10 minutes, I went to look for the interviewer, to apologise for wasting his time. I couldn’t find him, so I just left.

      I’m better now

      Another time I had an interview with a software company, but I couldn’t find any information about them. Nothing. The recruiter didn’t tell me anything either. Just the name of the company and the address. But I was desperate, so I went. When we got to the “do you have any questions part”, I asked “what do you actually do”. They weren’t impressed. And they still didn’t answer my question.

  9. The Expendable Redshirt*

    In my cover letters, I would put in the sentence “Works well independently and in groups.”

    This was advice when I was a high school student from my local employment centre.

    1. BRR*

      I’ve told this many times but I followed someone on tumblr who said they were putting the phrase “eager to please” in all of their cover letter.

      1. BRR*

        Oh and they later posted about accepting a counter offer and that it brought them huge raise and got promoted again six months later (obviously I can’t tell how much is true but let’s assume that it is and how horrifying that is).

          1. BRR*

            I think last time I posted that somebody also made the Labrador comment. My mind is similar to your’s Zillah.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I got the same advice, and worse, it was on my resume up until I found AAM last year.

      I have somehow been getting jobs anyway. =P

    3. Anonsie*

      Same. High school business classes told me to do it, career counselor in HS told me to do it, career counselor in college told me to do it, career center at college didn’t have any problems with it.

    4. HannahS*

      To be fair, several postings I’ve seen (from hospitals! and research institutes!) have that as the last bullet point on their requirements. I don’t SAY it in my letters, because I know better from AAM :)

      1. Audiophile*

        This. “Must be able to work well in groups, as part of a team, as well as autonomously or alone.”

  10. Juli G.*

    I think mine was as I was looking for my first post-college job. I went to an interview, the company seemed cool, lots of young people, market research.
    They were very clear you MUST have a bachelor’s for this role.

    They called and let me a message with a job offer – $8 an hour. This was 2005 so it was $1.50 over min wage but I was completely insulted by this lowball offer but I didn’t know how to say no. So I just let them call and call and call without answering. I held out for my $13/hr job and I’m still with that company today.

    $8/hr company went under but I still feel bad for being unprofessional.

    1. Jerzy*

      As a former reporter for a local newspaper that required at least a bachelor’s and paid $10 as a starting salary in 2004 in one of the most expensive counties in the country, I bristle when I think of how that job kept me living at home with my parents for years longer than I should have because I simply could not afford to move out and pay off my student loans.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Ugh, reporters’ salaries are so insanely low, and every last one of them requires a college degree with internship experience. It’s gotten to the point that only people with rich parents can afford a career in journalism.

        1. alter_ego*

          Which has pretty terrifying implications about the type of new stories that will get reported on, and how they’ll be talked about.

          1. ElCee*

            Exactly. I was a reporter from 2004-2008 (good timing self) and our newsroom was about half rich kids and half ramen-eaters. Of all my former coworkers, the only ones who still work at any sort of newspaper are basically supported by their parents.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Absolutely. I grew up poor and ended up having to borrow a lot of money for college (much of it in the form of private loans, meaning no income-based repayment plans), which effectively means I need a certain salary to live. Most of my young colleagues grew up privileged; a few of them were better students than I was and had enough scholarship money to avoid taking on serious debt.

            Journalism and media already have a diversity problem, and considering poverty disproportionately affects people of color, these entry-level wages below $30K with no chance of raise without promotion are just not doing good things for the industry. Sure, I left the industry because I was laid off, but many of the best and brightest journalists I knew left for industries that value their talent.

        2. michelenyc*

          +1 My cousin graduated 2 or 3 years ago with a degree in journalism from a prestigious school and she has really struggled to find a job! I was shocked when she told me that a job she really wanted only paid I think $28k/year.

          1. Could be anyone*

            Daughter is 4 1/2 years out of college and started out part time at minimum wage at local paper. Eventually got $9/hr but still not full time. Just moved for a full time copy editor job at newspaper paying just over $29,000.

    2. Van Wilder*

      I saw a job posting in 2013 for a marketing position at a small tech company that required an “MBA from a top business school”. Pay: $10/hour in NYC.

      1. Slippy*

        Saw a job posted in Washington D.C.:
        “Wanted: Masters in Middle Eastern/North African studies, language required, international experience, security clearance, $35k” (Abbreviated to protect the idiots)

        1. kelseywanderer*

          $35k is actually pretty average for this type of position in DC – maybe even slightly on the high side. Believe me, I know: I’ve applied to enough of them.

          1. De Minimis*

            The wage isn’t the only ridiculous thing about that, I don’t know why a bookkeeper would need to have a CPA license, unless the job really is more a Staff Accountant job and they just don’t want to pay for one.

            I’m a CPA who wound up working as a bookkeeper for a while, it was a crap job market but I was paid more than that per hour [though not much more.]

      2. Stephanie*

        Someone on here (I think it’s the commenter that goes by “I’m a Little Teapot”) started a blog compiling all those laughably bad job postings. It’s fantastic.

    3. stellanor*

      I got rejected for a job at a company with 15+ years in business that emphasized how they were a startup and the pay/benefits were startup pay/benefits. In retrospect I’m like 90% sure they just called themselves a ‘startup’ as an excuse to offer 2/3 the going rate and crap benefits.

      They rejected me because I didn’t have ‘startup experience’.

  11. Bekx*

    I made one of those obnoxious web portfolios that are like “Hi! I’m Bekx. If you’re looking for a creative and fun web designer and you aren’t a boring company, let’s talk.” With huuuge typography and bright colors and helvetica.

    Luckily I got rid of that pretty quickly when I realized how jerky I sounded.

  12. TCO*

    I wore a conservative outfit (nice sweater and skirt) to my first “real” interview for an office admin job… and accessorized with pink-and-orange flip-flops because I thought they’d appreciate me “showing my personality.” In my defense, I was 16 years old.

    1. Career Counselorette*

      At age 20 I once wore a 1950’s sundress with a circle skirt and a ribbon around the waist to an interview. I was interviewed by a woman wearing a stained sweatshirt with skiing teddy bears on it. It was summer. And it was Friday. We were all in the wrong.

      1. louise*

        [nodding gravely] Yes, yes, any other day of the week in the winter is all it would have taken to make that teddy bear sweatshirt oh, so right.

    2. matcha123*

      It’s OK. I wore a neon green suit to an interview when I was in high school.
      In my defense, my mom picked out the suit and made me wear it.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      I can relate! When I was 16, I needed to look nice for a college interview, so my mother bought me a lovely navy blue shirtdress. I thought I looked too conservative and wanted to “look like myself,” so I accessorized with a vintage fringed belt, hot pink patent leather shoes, and hot pink fishnet stockings. I had braces and wore heavy eyeliner. I wish I’d taken a picture.

        1. Former Museum Professional*

          But did you have your own telephone line? IN YOUR ROOM? Because that is critical.

          Ahh, the days before cell phones.

    4. lionelrichiesclayhead*

      OMG that is so amazing and very Legally Blonde. Not an interview, but I wore flip flops a few times to a paid summer internship. I thought that because they were black wedge flip flops and were J. Crew that it made them “dressy” enough to pair with a work outfit.

      I’ve never told anyone that before. I feel so free! But still highly embarrassed.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Things that were ubiquitous when I was growing up, in order of when I realized they were not work-appropriate:

        1) exposed bra straps
        2) shirts that didn’t quite reach the top of my pants
        3) jeans
        4) flip-flops

        1. Liz*

          I see college students like this *all the time*. And in the South, you can see flip-flops all year round. (Yes, even when it’s literally below freezing.)

          1. Former Museum Professional*

            The one that shocked me recently was shorts with tights underneath. Why not just wear pants? Yoga pants are 100% acceptable for college campuses these days. It seems so … odd. And uncomfortable.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              I can see this if she has to dress up later in the day. It’s easier to get tights or stockings on early and then put on the dress or skirt right before it’s needed. (As someone who tends to spill on myself, this is a technique I had to use when younger…) But there were versions of this look that were popular in the 80s, too. (I have to admit that I always liked the skirt and capri leggings look – it was cute, and since teenagers aren’t always as careful about their skirts riding up as they should be, it saved a lot of girls potential embarrassment. It also meant that you could continue to wear short skirts into cold weather in the northern climes.)

            2. AnotherAlison*

              Tights with shorts on top was big when I was in 7th grade. I was surprised to see it come back around. Sad that it’s grungy twin didn’t make it back in fashion: long johns with shorts on top.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                How about floral long johns beneath ripped jeans? (This was both a way to keep warm and extend the life of one’s jeans.)

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  Yes please. And the bonus: Your jeans actually had enough room to put long johns under them. My favorite pairs were literally “boyfriend” jeans, with natural ripped out knees and the seams ripped at the bottom. The 90s were so comfortable.

            3. Kelly L.*

              Liking the tights themselves, like if they’re a cool color or pattern. Or wanting the look of shorts but you’re going somewhere they air-condition way too well.

            4. Hlyssande*

              I wear shorts with capri-length leggings all the time to conventions and whatnot. I’m pretty self conscious about my thighs, but don’t want to wear full length jeans and I need pockets, so yep. Also, much more comfy.

              But I would never, ever wear something like that to work.

            5. Observer*

              I just saw an auditor show up that way in our office. I nearly fell over. Especially since she happened to look quite young as it was. Taken together, she looked like a high school kid.

        2. uncreative anon*

          I see 3 out of 4 of those plus leggings as pants at my office job, all you need is a stick and you can make every day casual Friday. I think the line of thinking is: customers don’t see us so who cares.

        3. Witty Nickname*

          Except in California. (All of these are appropriate at my tech company in SoCal. Well, maybe not the second one…)

          1. PizzaSquared*

            Our CEO was in the office in flip-flops and shorts yesterday. Probably about 10% of the company is wearing flip-flops at any given time in the summer, and virtually no one wears pants that aren’t shorts or jeans (some women wear casual skirts, sundresses, etc.). It all depends on the company.

          2. blammobiddy*

            I’m wearing jeans and flip flops right now! I wouldn’t have been able to get away with the flip flops at some of my previous jobs, but they are totally fine here. I don’t think I could ever move to the east coast.

        4. Ad Astra*

          It really did take me a while to realize that flip-flops were entirely too casual. As a teen my family couldn’t really afford to buy me nice clothes, and of course shoes are some of the most expensive items. Flip-flops were the default shoe to go with any kind of dress or skirt.

          I know I’ve been to at least one job interview in flip-fops — fortunately, it was for an on-campus job in college and the interviewer described the dress code by looking at my feet and saying “What you have on would be fine.” That’s probably the moment I realized that Rainbows and J Crew flip-flops weren’t going to cut it.

          1. Anonsie*

            On the flippy floppy, my family struggled with money a lot and I think a lot of my inappropriate dressing habits came from me trying to emulate what the rich kids wore. In my mind, those things were expensive (Rainbows are $50!) and that made them inherently more dressed up and polished than my normal clothes. My dad did manual labor so all his work clothes were torn and stained throwaways. My friends parents all worked retail or service jobs that either meant casual clothes or uniforms. I had nooo models whatsoever for white collar dress.

            So when I was younger I definitely wore preppy casual stuff (think American Eagle) when I needed to be more dressed up because I was a complete outsider and I was thinking, look at me! I’m part of the group! This is what people wear, right? I can totally afford a $40 shirt!

            1. Ad Astra*

              Yes, exactly! How are my $50 flip-flops not dressy enough for a job interview? They cost FIFTY DOLLARS! And they look nice with my polo shirt and khaki pants, the epitome of dressy.

              1. Anonsie*

                A polo and khakis would be a step up from a lot of my outfits for sure, though I know I did wear a whoooole lot of polos and khakis. That’s what the pretty women in J Crew ads wear, and they’re pretty wealthy right?

            2. Turanga Leela*

              I realize we’re getting further and further from the topic, but it took me ages to realize there’s more to clothes than just nice/not nice. These days, I think of clothes along three continuums (continua?):
              cheap expensive/designer
              casual formal
              professional unprofessional

              So flip-flops can be expensive, but they’re not formal or professional. This is also why some formal clothes don’t work at the office, because they look more like something you’d wear to church or to a party.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                My arrows didn’t show up! It should be
                cheap vs expensive/designer
                casual vs formal
                professional vs unprofessional

              2. I'm a Little Teapot*

                Yeah, and the “church” and “party” categories also tend to be separate, especially if we’re talking about either clubwear or prom/red carpet stuff.

                And then there’s the category of “classical musician on stage” and “funeral attire.” Yes, that is only one category.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Ha. To your last paragraph, I remember for my first youth orchestra concert (so I was maybe 12),we didn’t have to wear all black. I had just gotten into nail polish as well. My outfit was like a satin burgundy pantsuit thing with embroidered flowers, some kind of platform heel, and turquoise nail polish. It was bad.

      2. Rebecca*

        If it makes you feel any better, I once wore Reefs (ie wedge flip flops with a woven thong instead of plastic) to my job in high school. My manager had to inform me that my “shoes” were in fact flip flops and against the dress code.

    5. TCO*

      I should note that I got the job anyway (it was through a family friend and they talked me up so much the manager was already ready to hire me)! I didn’t ever wear the flip-flops to work and I always dressed appropriately, if unfashionably.

    6. Calla*

      My first real “office” interview (I think I was 18) I wore a shiny satin hot pink blouse with black slacks that clearly needed to be tailored. It’s definitely not lime green suit, but thinking back I still cringe about it.

      1. Evil*

        Ack. I have a similar blouse and I used to wear it to interviews… Thinking about it now, it’s no surprise I couldn’t find a job for so long. But I was 16/17, so it’s okay.

    7. CoffeeNerd*

      I wore glasses to all my interviews from 16 to oh, 22? Jusssst in case the interviewer assumed glasses = smarter.

    8. Bagworm*

      When I was 18, I had my first interview for an office job (at the Chamber of Commerce for a fairly conservative community) but it was unscheduled. The head of the organization called and said if I could be there in 30 minutes I could have an interview. I told him I could there but wouldn’t have time to change. So, he interviewed me in overalls and tennis shoes with my hair in braided pigtails. I didn’t get the job but they did say I was their second choice so I guess he was sincere when he said he didn’t care what I wore. (Or they gave me the line about second choice to be nice.)

    9. moss*

      I interviewed for a job as a chambermaid. I had a skirt and blouse on but I was somehow freaked out by the blouse (I can’t remember, it didn’t fit right or had a stain or I had sweated through it) so I kept my coat — a trench coat — on, for the whole interview. I did not get that job.

    10. JennyFair*

      My 16 year old self would have liked your 16 year old self. I wore a flowered pencil skirt, pink tee shirt with a pocket, and a big straw hat with the front brim pinned up and accessorized with cheerful flowers. It was 1991 and I waffled between romantic and tomboy.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Bonus points if you wore yellow work boots with this. No?

        I had a flowered A-line dress that I wore work boots with in high school. I had so much crap with flowers on it, I really cannot wear the floral trend this time around.

        1. Stephanie*

          I bought some Doc Martens for work (I didn’t need steel toes, but I needed some sort of supportive leather boot with a non-slip sole). I found some relatively low-profile ones with a thinner sole. After the horrible break-in period, they’re amazingly comfortable. I now find myself browsing around at other Doc Martens. I might as well pair them with some floral dresses and just bring the 90s back.

    11. lowercase holly*

      i had an “informational discussion” with the new HR person at a major museum when i was 24. it wasn’t for any particular job so i didn’t realize this meant INTERVIEW. i did not dress to impress :( i figured out my mistake when the other woman there for the same discussion was appropriately in a suit. i can’t even remember what i wore, but it was extremely casual.

    12. BananaPants*

      For an internship interview, I dressed in my nicest outfit since I didn’t yet own a suit – a green twin set with lace trim and a long (ankle length) green floral skirt. I carried what was at the time my only purse, which happened to be a neon orange messenger bag style. I didn’t get an offer.

    13. Too Many Identifiers*

      My first job out of college (1990) was at a law firm in DC. My first trial was held in the fancy courthouse in Alexandria. I worked the videotape player, wearing a long floral print skirt with a shell and short-sleeved jacket that I thought looked pretty sharp. My boss pulled me aside at the end of the day and asked, “Sommerville, do you own a suit?” Even then I knew that was not really a question, so I borrowed one from a friend until the olive green silk double-breasted suit with giant shoulder pads I ordered from Victoria’s Secret arrived.

    14. Blue Anne*

      Once, I was on the way to pick up my boyfriend at the train station and made a brief detour to drop off a copy of my CV with a friend who worked at the small company I was applying to. When I got there, he met me outside and said that actually, the boss wanted to interview me right then and there.

      I was wearing a long ruffled hippy skirt, a slightly see-through sleeveless lace blouse, flip flops, toenails all different colors, my waist-length hair completely down, and an old military satchel covered in political and obscene buttons. I did the impromptu interview, accepted bossman’s offer of £14k a year, and ran off to the train station.

      That was my first job out of uni. It was actually pretty good. I stayed for three years. They let me dye my hair pink. Still can’t believe I said yes to an interview while I was wearing that, but it worked out!

  13. Carrie in Scotland*

    Not mine but a friend (actually an old boyfriend).

    He is on the dole or whatever you call unemployment benefits these days and has to provide evidence of his job search etc. He recently was invited to an interview via email but didn’t check his emails(!) for several days(!!).

    He then asked if he could still interview (a few days after the date they wanted) and was, naturally, declined.

    I said that you can’t do that sort of thing (not check emails), you have to keep on top of it.

    He now checks his emails at least once a day.

    1. Ihmmy*

      oh man mistakes of ex’s about job hunting. Mine did that too, plus he would plan on being exactly on time… so if there was a train or bad traffic he would be late, and he’d just be mad at the traffic instead of planning on being a little early.

      He also would get mad about automated/form no-thank-you emails, about people never confirming they received his resume, and about interviewers who weren’t going to be his direct supervisor. No wonder it took him forever to get a job again.

    2. Shan*

      This is how my sister’s husband missed getting into nursing school. By the time he received his acceptance email, the deadline to register had long passed. He then complained about how the office staff was “so rude and not understanding at all.”

      I love my brother-in-law, but he’s a bit clueless when it comes to jobs and work procedures/etiquette. He’d been applying to this prestigious program every semester for two years. I have no idea how he wasn’t obsessed over his inbox.

    3. LadyCop*

      I have mixed feelings about the sinfulness of this…but long story short, I have a form of PTSD, and during one period of unemployment I was so anxiety ridden at the prospect of going to a couple of the interviews I had scheduled (neither my dream job) that I blew them off completely. Oddly enough, I did later get an interview with one of them about 6 months later for a different position…but yeah, anxiety blows.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. I have bad anxiety but am medicated and am doing really well despite it. I have a lot of friends who aren’t so lucky. I spend a lot of time coaching them through job search stuff and giving them pep talks when they’re going to need to use the phone, etc. My best friend is a brilliant writer who just can’t handle the anxiety of opening important emails from her agent – I open them for her, get over the worst part by telling her if they’re good or bad, and then she can deal with it.

        It sucks because everyone who has this type of issue is affected differently, and it can be difficult for companies to deal with in employees, much less going out of their way to make it easier for applicants. :(

        1. Kate Heightmeyer*

          I have social anxiety and it makes job hunting a nightmare. It doesn’t help that I’ve never gotten a job off an interview (two of my jobs had interviews but they were more formalities to explain the job requirements and allow me to ask questions).

          At the start of this summer I applied to an office position that was being filled by a staffing agency. They called me and left a voicemail saying they wanted to ask a few questions about my resume. Now I *hate* leaving voicemail. I can do it if I write out what to say ahead of time, but I would rather call someone back several times than leave a voicemail even though I’m painfully aware that’s unprofessional. I called the number for the agency twice, got voicemail both times, and decided to just write the job off completely.

  14. Snork Maiden*

    I sent belligerent cover letters telling them why they’d be happy to hire me (possibly to cover up anxiety about graduating into the 2008 recession). I also worked well independently and in groups!

    Currently I’m sending in applications and ignoring their requests for references right off the bat, which I’m sure is disqualifying myself in flyover country here.

    1. Snork Maiden*

      Also! I went to a summer job interview in a new outfit I had bought for interviewing. It was after I was walking to the car that a nice woman on the street pointed out the price tag hanging out the back of my neck. I got called back for a second interview, however!

      1. Artemesia*

        LOL. I wore my sacks and sweater bought for the interview to my first serious post grad job and went immediately from plane to first round of interviews. I will be forever grateful to the man behind me on the plane who spotted and told me about the price tag hanging off the back of the neck of the sweater. The outfit was bad enough but I would never have lived down the ‘Minnie Pearl’ look if I had showed up with that price tag. I did get the job.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          I think we should have a separate thread for all the things we wore to first Real Job interviews, thinking we were professional. All-brown dress shirt and pants ensemble (with lace-up neck)? Check. And thanks to the price tag, everyone knew how much I paid for it…

          1. MommaTRex*

            I would find the price tag hanging out to be charming. As in “here’s a real person who I can work with”.

            1. Snork Maiden*

              If you frequented Ricki’s (in Canada) or JCPenney during the mid 00’s I’m sure you have seen it. Fortunately I have destroyed all evidence of me in said outfit.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Black satiny tee with patterned skirt. And fringed, sequined scarf like freaking Stevie Nicks dressed up as a flapper. (I got the job.)

          3. Sydney Bristow*

            Gray pencil skirt, light blue button up, topped off with…. a black hooded zip up sweatshirt-type thing made out of the same material as yoga pants. I swear that’s how the outfit was styled at Express so I thought it was completely appropriate.

            1. WriterInProgress*

              Jacketed pencil skirt suit, in vertical stripes of turquoise blue, magenta, mid-emerald green and black with a bright turquoise blue blouse, black heels, no hose [my legs were tan and shaved, so who needed hose?] – for a retail sales position in a now-defunct discount department store (think Montgomery Wards). Ahhh, to be 17 and a brand-new high school grad again …

          4. UK Nerd*

            I went to my university interviews in a purple velvet jacket. I blame my mum. Fortunately by the time job interviews came along, she’d bought me a real suit instead.

    2. Anx*

      I wish I wasn’t so desperate for a full-time position. I’m also a recession graduate and still working on getting out out part-time work, and I feel soooo, soooo bad for my references. They’ve had to fill out those surveys so many times because I’d apply to jobs over 6 months apart at one employer, so they’d have to redo them. It’s insanely embarrassing. I really wish employers would choose more reasonable methods or acquiring references or wait until they meet you (or really read your application; I had one read my resume after an interview and realize I didn’t have paid experience in the position before and didn’t qualify).

      1. Snork Maiden*

        It’s terrible. And here, leaving references off your initial application when they’ve asked for them is either interpreted as “can’t follow instructions” or “doesn’t have any references”! You can’t win.

      2. Audiophile*

        What are you applying for that asks for references before hand? I supply a list of references but most aren’t contacted or asked to fill out a survey unless you’re interviewed. The only time it happened beforehand, was with a local hospital. Also a local community college weirdly wanted reference letters, now that was a pain.

        1. Anx*

          Higher Ed and local hospitals are actually the two employers I’m talking about. I wonder if it’s A Thing.

          They are also they largest employers in town, and one of the few companies that hires regularly outside of retail (which has those personality tests that are so burdensome). I’d like to move on to a different employer, and I worry that I’ve been blacklisted by applying regularly, but it’s pretty common for people around here to wait years or decades for a job at the hospital.

          Most of my city’s other hiring seems to be from temp offices, which I used to think were great gateways for those without experience, but I find them to be more strict about their previous experience requirements.

  15. Myrtle Snyrtle*

    These examples are from when I was fresh out of college. I once wrote the perfect follow-up note after an interview, only to e-mail the five people who interviewed me addressing them all by the same name. >_< I did not get the job.

    I also accepted a position with a company and received a surprise offer from another company the week before I was supposed to start the other one. I didn't have any professional skills yet, so I called the first company and left a voice message pretending to cry and be extremely depressed because a family member was ill, so I'm sorry and I cannot take the job. I never responded to any follow-up calls or e-mails. I can most certainly never work for that company again. Goodness me!

  16. Jen*

    My absolute worst sin – being really disorganized. I worked in broadcast journalism in the 90s. Back then when you applied for jobs you had to send a VHS resume tape along with your cover letter and resume. It was expensive and time consuming. Kids today don’t know how lucky they are with their vimeo links and e-mail. Anyway, I was applying for new jobs and had a huge stack of tapes to label and put into envelopes. I sat on my living room floor and put everything together. Address labels on the tapes, tapes in padded envelopes, resume in every package. I put everything together and glued the envelopes shut and sat down to watch the taped episode of Friends I had been looking forward to. I fired up the VCR and lo and behold, it was my resume tape. Meaning that somewhere in that stack of dozen envelopes was my name and address stuck on a recorded copy of Friends and Charmed touting it as my work. I was too poor to buy new envelopes so I mailed them all out knowing full well that some News Director out there thought I was a complete idiot. Or maybe he got a break from his day and got to watch a good episode of Friends? Who knows?

      1. Stephanie*

        That happened once. Someone was doing a big presentation at work (like in front of 200 people), puts in the USB stick, and yup.

        1. Nelly*

          On Monday we had a staff meeting, and the interstate director fires up Skype under his own online name: ChubbyChaser.

          Not bad enough? He selected that one other than his four or five BBW and BBM related names, and a file marked #analink

          And no one batted an eye…

    1. Mimmy*

      You’re the winner so far :) My husband is on a work call, so I’m trying reaalllly hard to stifle my laughter!

      1. Shan*

        I’m picturing more along the lines of: Monica trying to find the tiny pepper shaker to go with her tiny salt!

    2. INFJ*

      LOL. This reminds me of when I applied for transfer mid-college. I was applying to several colleges and must have been super disorganized because I got an envelope back from one of the colleges returning “extraneous submitted material.”

      Horrified, I found a PHOTOCOPY of some satire cartoons I had drawn making fun of my current college. I must have accidentally picked them up off the table with the rest of my application materials and sent them in.

      I am most embarrassed by the fact that they still have the original copy on file somewhere…

    3. Ama*

      Bonus points if it was the episode of Friends where they help Rachel send out a bunch of resumes and she realizes they all have a typo.

      1. Hermione*

        That was my first thought, too!
        “Excellent Compuper Skills”
        “Oh no! Do you think they’re all like that?”
        “No, No, I’m sure the copier caught some of them…”

    4. Former Museum Professional*

      You win. I am gasping for breath in my super quiet office trying to contain my laughter.

    5. Anonsie*

      Oh my god. Just imagining you looking over the stack and shaking your head going, no, no. No this is just how things are going to be.

  17. Kristine*

    When I was in high school I was applying for jobs at retails stores, movie theaters, etc. My mother INSISTED that showing up and asking for an interview or calling every day to check on the status of my application was the best way to get a job. Being inexperienced and young, of course I listened to her. I didn’t get any of those jobs.

    As an adult, the worst thing I did was cold-email places asking if they had open positions. These were small local companies that did not have job listings on their website, so I figured that emailing their generic contact email was the best way to find out if they were hiring. Unsurprisingly, none of them responded to me.

    1. Brownie Queen*

      I confess to doing the cold-email of resume to local companies. However, I was told to do that by my “counselor” down at the unemployment center.

    2. Kai*

      Yep, right after I graduated college I applied to work at a Borders bookstore and then called basically every day to check on “the status of my application.” It took a while for me to get the hint.

      1. TL -*

        A friend of mine applied at a local ice cream place and then, after she turned in the application, badgered the front counter guy about when she would hear back, what’s the timeline, ect… and got really, visibly annoyed with him because he wouldn’t tell her what to expect, despite her multiple questions.

        She did not get the job.

      2. julietschmo*

        Kindred spirit! I applied to my local Borders three separate times, and kept showing up to ask the poor kids at the information desk about the status of my application. Lucky me, a relative ended up getting to know the general manager about a year later, so I ended up getting a job there after all.

    3. Mercyme92*

      But what about the places where the website specifically says to email a certain address to find out about job openings? Is it still unacceptable?

    4. Keep Summer Safe*

      I think that there was a time – before email and the web – when calling every day about your application really *was* a good idea, especially if you were young and looking for a summer job. If you managed to get the owner or the “hiring manager” on the line, and seemed like a Nice Young Person, you saved them the hassle of wading through a stack of applications.

      Of course, things are very different today.

  18. Anonymous Ninja*

    Not me, but a friend of mine sent a shoe with the note, “now that I have my foot in the door…”

    The result? He got the job! But the job was for promotions at a radio station. It would never work for a more traditional office position.

    1. Florida*

      I’ve never sent a shoe, but I have received a shoe. It was a plastic clown shoe filled with candy. A potential vendor sent it to our company. I don’t even remember what type of vendor he was – maybe copy machines. Anyway, it didn’t work, but we enjoyed the candy.

      1. Kairi*

        My company once received a “treasure chest” of cookies from Comcast in an attempt to gain our business. Needless to say the direct mail flier was thrown out, but we enjoyed the cookies!

        1. Florida*

          Did the treasure chest have some dorky meaning? The shoe came with a note about “trying to get my foot in the door.”

      2. Elizabeth West*

        The temp company we used at Exjob would bring candy once in a while. They gave me a cheap witch head mug full of candy once. I used that thing as a pen holder for something like two years before it finally broke.

      3. DarjeelingAtNoon*

        Once the office I worked at received a cake from an organization that we often referred clients to. When it arrived, the cake had strawberries on it, and mold too. Kind of hard to feel good about the appreciation, though I guess it is the thought that counts.

    2. PK*

      Someone sent something like that to my old company (highly competitive industry) and the hiring manager thought it was insanely gross (it was a visibly dirty, used shoe!!!) and went around telling everyone how grossed out she was and how terrible the idea was.

  19. Courtney*

    I’d emailed a company an unsolicited resume and they responded asking me when I’d like to interview. They didn’t contact me for several months and I called them about 5 times and emailed a few times. I was desperate to escape a bad job situation and they seemed like a good company. Needless to say they didn’t interview me at all.

    1. W.*

      Doesn’t seem like an error on your part? Unless you called them five times in quick succession.
      We should do one of these for fails on the part of the employer.
      Had a similar thing where I applied for a job, but the site had you upload a Resume through their portal, and then if you applied for something else you had to delete that Resume and have another (at the time you were allowed a couple for free.) I did this, got contacted ages later from a company I applied for that were again looking for this position, they asked me to forward my Resume to their email address which I did (because my old one had been deleted). They then called to arrange an interview even though the woman insisted she hadn’t received my Resume, I said I had sent it, she checks and finds it in her email, says she’ll call back to arrange the interview.
      Never calls back. Although I email, and I think I tried to call to arrange the interview and was told she would call back. Was very annoyed, no problem if you take my Resume and you don’t like it, but don’t try and set up an interview before you’ve seen it, take a quick look and decide hell no and never get back to me.

  20. Kelly*

    I had an interview the week I moved, but hadn’t moved everything yet. I was only ~40 minutes from my parents’ house and left some things behind to pick up later.

    I knew the outfit I wanted to wear to the interview, and the morning of I checked my closet only to realize I’d left half of my professional attire at home, specifically all of my dress pants. I had very little time to spare, let alone enough time to shop for something. I drove to the closest Macy’s but they weren’t going to open in time.

    I was sick to my stomach driving to the interview. I sheepishly apologized for my appearance and explained the situation but I had already set myself up to fail. I tanked that one. Always plan your outfit ahead of time!

    1. BRR*

      I traveled 7 hours to interview for my current position. At around 10:15 the night before, I notice I had forgotten a belt and collar stays for my shirt (I have metal ones that I always put in). Armed with google maps on my phone I made it to Wal Mart and the only belt that I thought was appropriate for an interview was too big. And my pants were slightly big and needed a belt.

    2. Chameleon*

      I know you were wearing jeans or something, but I can’t help picturing someone interviewing in a nice blouse, blazer, and pair of knickers.

    3. Ezri*

      My first ever travel interview was scheduled in a large city several hours away from my university, and I was a nervous wreck. My husband and I drove up the night before, and when we checked into the hotel I realized that my brand new interview outfit from Kohls was still hanging off a chair at my house. All I had were my shoes, my pajamas, and the jeans / t-shirt I’d driven up in.

      We had to make a panicked trip to Kohls through unfamiliar city traffic at about 10 PM at night, praying that they were still open. My nerves were shot, which probably contributed to my next horror story – breaking down sobbing in the middle of an interview. I don’t really feel bad for crying, because they were huge jerks and I was mentally exhausted by that point, but I wish I’d had the composure to handle the situation better in hindsight.

    4. Dr J*

      I had arranged to share a hotel room with another grad student at an academic conference — we were strangers who had connected through the host society’s facebook page. I arrived a night before her at our cheap hotel and had to be moved to a different room because of water pouring through the ceiling. That wasn’t the disaster though. It was when I opened my suitcase and realized I hadn’t packed pajamas! Thank goodness she hadn’t arrived yet, or she would have had a horror story about the weirdo she shared a room with who slept practically in the nude! (Thankfully there was a Marks and Spencer nearby that opened before the next day’s session so I could go correct the error…)

  21. Ann*

    Many, many years ago when I was interviewing for one of my first office jobs, I got the question, “what would you do if there was no more work for you to do.” I really don’t know what I was thinking. All I can figure is that between my lack of experience at interviewing and the way she asked the question, I assumed that I would have already asked around for additional work and gave the interviewer a very confused look and said, “I don’t know. Maybe read a magazine?” As soon as the words left my mouth I realized my mistake, but it was too late. Needless to say, I was not called back for a second interview.

    1. MommaTRex*

      I think a good answer (in addition to asking around for more work) would be that you would explore process improvements, or something along those lines.

    2. Anonsie*

      Oh, it took me a while to figure this out. I was imagining this as a “what would you do with your life if you didn’t have to work” question and I was wondering what they had against magazines.

  22. That Lady*

    I waited for nearly two hours in the hallway, waiting for the hiring manager to come back from his meeting. This was after several “follow-up” emails that had received no reply. I was the very definition of the stalker job candidate. He told me that I wasn’t even qualified for the job, and to leave him alone. He seemed angry, and at the time I was pretty sure he was a big jerk. But it turns out that I’m the jerk. So much shame.

  23. matcha123*

    I don’t know if I have any sins…maybe trip-ups?

    I’m living in Japan and was trying to interview in Tokyo, which is on the other side of the country from me. The cheapest option for me was to ride a night bus and get to Tokyo early in the morning, change in the bathroom and make my way to the interview location.
    I took my luggage with me to one interview (second round), but they wouldn’t let me leave it outside of the door of the interview room. I don’t know why. So, I had to wheel my luggage into the room, and try to act smooth. At the end of the interview, I said that I didn’t have much experience interviewing and this was probably the fourth interview I’d had in my life. Their response made me think they misheard me saying that it was my fourth interview that day. One of the interviewers replied, “You must be tired. Good luck.”
    And…I didn’t get the job. :(

        1. Anonsie*

          Now that you mention it, every time I’ve flubbed on something while talking to a native speaker I’ve found it near impossible to get them to actually accept my correction. I wonder if this is a Thing with how you’re supposed to present errors or correct people that I am not aware of.

    1. Aideekay*

      Back when I had no car, only the bus, I got a job interview with a museum. My bus was over an hour away from where I lived, so it was no easy feat to return home.

      The interview was at 11am. I also had a violin repair that was complete, but that I needed to pick up by 12pm before they closed for the day. Sooo… I ended up interviewing with a violin next to me and three curators staring down from a panel.

      I got the job, but that was a strange one!

  24. NK*

    Mine are all at the interview phase…

    I wore a suit to an interview for a restaurant hostess job while in college, and later, at Google because I just couldn’t bring myself to not wear a suit. I did not get either job.

    I asked an interviewer where she went to college when I was a new grad, because I read somewhere that you should ask your interviewer these kinds of things because people like to talk about themselves. Turns out she did not have a degree. In my defense she was definitely an anomaly – normally a college education would be required for her job. But I’ve certainly never asked that again! And now I understand why it’s not a good use of the question portion of the interview anyway.

    1. LS*

      I don’t get what’s so bad at wearing a suit? Yeah, total overkill at a restaurant hostess interview but I knew a few people who did that when I was working in restaurants and the managers were always impressed by how seriously they were taking it.

      1. T3k*

        Depending on the job culture, it makes one wonder if the interviewee realizes what job they’re applying for. For example, the industry I want to get into, it’s well known to NOT show up in in a full suit unless you want the hiring people talking about your afterwards, and generally not in a good way.

      2. Melissa*

        Wearing a suit to interviews for Bay Area tech positions is usually frowned on by interviewers. “Doesn’t hurt to be overdressed” really doesn’t apply in that situation.

    2. AM*

      I might, *might* have an interview with Google coming up. If so, what is appropriate to wear to an interview? I am female.

      1. Melissa*

        Depends on the position you’re interviewing for. Developer or other tech role, nice casual. Non-tech, nice slacks or skirt and blouse. Generally not a suit. Google’s own website (and head recruiter) say as much.

      2. Anonymous For This*

        I’m a Googler, and I work in People Operations. As a general rule, we tell people business casual. In engineering, that can be a nice top and either jeans, khakis or a skirt. If you’re interviewing for non-tech, same except maybe no jeans. Some of the sales and marketing teams may expect a slightly more dressy look (meaning blazer and more polished accessories) if you’re going to be client-facing, but your recruiting coordinator or recruiter will advise you it’s something outside the business casual norm.

      3. voluptuousfire*

        I did have an interview with Google and I wore a black shift dress and a cobalt blue blazer. I also carried my coral interview bag and found a cute scarf that was had both the cobalt blue and coral in it to tie it together. I didn’t get the job but I looked good interviewing.

      4. Googler*

        I am a software engineer at Google. If you are doing a technical interview, you should expect to be standing up writing on a whiteboard (unless your recruiter told you to expect some other format), so wear comfortable, stable shoes and something where you feel okay stretching your arms above your head (it’s totally worth the time to practice your whiteboarding skills in advance). Use good judgment but as long as you don’t wear anything outrageous it’s unlikely to matter at all. For non-technical interviews, I have no idea.

  25. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    My brother had a big interview and had never had one before (he was right out of school). I told him to call me so I could help him with some standard interview questions and to know what to expect. Instead of calling me back, he hung out with his girlfriend all night. During the interview they asked him what his greatest weakness was, he said, “Weakness???…..I guess I eat too much at lunch sometimes.”

    Obviously he did not get the job. I still give him a hard time about this and if he had just called me I would have told him he’d almost definitely be asked this question.

    1. Dr. Pepper Addict*

      Haha! We always tease him during meal time. “Hey bro, be sure not to eat too much at lunch.”

    2. BRR*

      When I was looking for general job search advice my first time (which is how I found AAM), somebody recommended to say “chocolate brownies.” I’m not sure if that is a better or worse answer than I’m too much of a perfectionist.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        Depending on the rapport you have with the interviewer, answering “chocolate” with a grin and then following it up with a real answer could go over well enough.

        1. Lady Bug*

          My husband used that one and got the job , but he’s that guy who can get away with saying anything.

      2. W.*

        I was told to say I spill coffee on myself and others. It’s true, and possibly a weakness. But still not going to say it.

      3. Csmo3456*

        Ha! At my first professional interview, I responded “coffee” when asked the question. After we all had a good laugh, they said “no, seriously what’s your biggest weakness?” My answer: “The fact that I don’t have any experience?” Oh, and I had a typo in the state I had worked in (think using NC instead of ND) which they kindly pointed out to me. But – I got the job!

    3. Ordinary Worker*

      I had this question on my very first “real” interview when I was 16. I sat there in stunned silence for what felt like an hour, all the while thinking….. I don’t have any weaknesses….. (what 16 year old thinks they do?)

      I finally blurted out something inane, don’t remember what exactly, I’ve blocked it out after all this time……no, did not get the job.

      30 years later and I still get embarrassed when I think about that…

  26. Anon Accountant*

    After graduating I applied for a secretarial position at a university 45 minutes away. The pay wouldn’t have covered the commute but I thought it’d be a foot in the door and apply for an internal listing later. I’d just graduated college a few months prior.

    I’d applied for several accounting positions at the university and they’d never contacted me. I was mad they would interview me for a secretary position that paid $9.00 but wouldn’t consider me for an accounting position although I had a bachelor’s in accounting. So I didn’t cancel the interview but didn’t show either.

  27. MAB*

    I put the wrong HR manager’s name on the cover letter because I had no idea that the companies had split. It wasn’t mentioned during the interview. I got hired but I still feel guilty.

  28. Ruth (uk)*

    I once had an letter folding disaster… I was 16 in 2005 when it was still common to hand in paper cvs or applications though I think online applications existed for some things.

    Long story short I sucked at getting the paper to fit neatly in an envelope and tended to just fold it over and over so it was basically all screwed up. Some were really really bad… And then hand them over to whatever shop I was applying in. . . I did eventually get a job by asking in person but I should note this is of course an exceptional circumstance. It was a cafe that I regularly went to as a customer and was on conversational terms already with the person hiring.

    1. Sunflower*

      As someone who used to do a lot of letter folding at my HS job, I sympathize. I probably did that more than a few times at my job then whoops!

  29. MostCommonLastName*

    I applied for and got an interview for the JET program (teaching English in Japan) while in my last year of university. As this was the number one thing I wanted to do after graduating, I was really nervous for the interview. For the first part of it, everything went reasonably well. Right up until they had me do a mock lesson. They gave me the subject of animals (I’d researched and found out they normally asked about holidays so I had one prepared for that), and assigned themselves roles including a kid who won’t pay attention and a shy boy who didn’t like English. The other interviewer just went along with the other two as I did an impromptu lesson on elephants (the only animal I could remember the Japanese word for despite having said dog in Japanese earlier in the interview). When they were all not paying attention as they roleplayed students I panicked and ended up making the elephant noise, which is no quiet sound when done properly. Which I did. They all froze and stared at me for a moment and then started laughing. They then ended the interview, after only 15 minutes when their interviews are normally twice as long, and sent me on my way. I’m still surprised they gave me the job.

    1. JMegan*

      When they were all not paying attention as they roleplayed students I panicked and ended up making the elephant noise

      SO AWESOME. I’d have given you the job too!

    2. BadPlanning*

      I feel like you got the job because you made the elephant noise. Good in all languages and it definitely go their attention back!

    3. W.*

      Didn’t know you had to know any Japanese for that job. That’s something I’ve always considered, but I know NO Japanese.

      1. MostCommonLastName*

        You don’t need to know any, but if you list it on your application, they’ll make you show what you know. I had two friends who went with no Japanese ability. It does help to have though

    4. MostCommonLastName*

      I did make the noise once for my elementary students but it was outside of class! They loved it ^_^

    5. Anonsie*

      This is so great. “Yeah, I guess that would also work! Hired!”

      I’m not going to lie, I was 100% sure you did not get the position until the very end there. I got intimidated right out of even applying for the JET program because of how competitive I always heard they were and how rigorous the interviews were supposed to be.

  30. Whoops*

    The things that make me cringe the most when I look back are mostly acts of omission, rather than commission. The two that stand out the most are:
    -I was terrible at remembering to do interview follow ups; and
    -I hardly ever remembered to Google companies to see if they were for real (I received a bunch of scam offers and only barely remembered to Google them in time; I actually fell for the National Income Life one!)

    1. Sunflower*

      Googling companies- I was smart enough to google them after they requested interviews from me but not before I filled out the application? I started saving myself soooo much time after I googled before filling out the application.

  31. Anon Accountant*

    When I was unemployed for several months I drove an hour to an interview that lasted 5 minutes. 5 minutes total from the time I walked in the door to the time my feet hit the parking lot to leave. It was obvious the hiring manager hadn’t read my resume. He said in a snotty tone “If I knew you were working on obtaining a CPA license I wouldn’t have bothered to interview you”. It was on my resume listing I’d passed 3 out of 4 parts. Then he said “Well there’s no sense in continuing this process”. I told him “It was listed on my resume . It sounds like this wouldn’t be a good fit for either of us”.

    He was very snotty and condescending. That was 5 years ago and I handle such situations a lot better now. :)

    1. SL*

      That sounds like a sin on his part more than yours! Maybe he was looking for someone not working on getting their CPA license, but there was no reason to be so rude about it.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      I really gave him attitude with my reply. A rude stare at him and all, matching snotty tone of voice. I figured he deserved it.

      That position is advertised often (several years later) so bullet dodged.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I had something like that happen to me. I contacted the recruiter (included my resume) to find out more about job ad in an area I was interested in and had some education in but no experience. I didn’t actually apply and I basically asked for more info on the job / required qualifications / etc. I did have clearance which something this defense contractor needed.

      She set up a time for us to do a phone call. I stayed home from work to make the call that morning and (1) she didn’t remember she set it up (2) it quickly became obvious that my lack of experience made this a dead end. It was embarrassing for me – just not feeling qualified – but also being made to feel stupid for inquiring about the job without having the experience. But SHE had my resume and failed to look at it before setting up the phone call.

      But this is an example of the disparity of the hiring experience. “Phone screens” are critical and nerve racking to the job seeker, but for the recruiter this is a common part of the job.

  32. Mimmy*

    Back in the late ’90s, I was relatively inexperienced, so I made my share of job search mistakes, several of them involving being a bit *too* honest about my skills or my feelings of certain aspects of a given job. The two that stand out are:

    – I was interviewing as a secretary for a school special services office, and I think it was very part-time. I was trying to get out of a job I was miserable in but wasn’t finding anything. I don’t remember what I said exactly–I think I’d basically said I was looking for a full-time job and saw the secretary job as temporary. The woman even said, “Well that’s not good for us!” Oops.

    – That same year, I interviewed with a medical company, and it seemed like I was pretty much on the verge of getting the job. They were looking to replace their office assistant, but said office assistant wasn’t aware of this, so I had to be careful not to call the actual office, but rather call the manager’s cell. After they were checking my references, a week went by with no update. I don’t remember why, but out of desperation, I called the actual office……and got the soon-to-be-fired office assistant! Oops! (Though that may not have been the reason I ended up not getting the job–I’d also suspected my current supervisor sabotaged me. Ironically, he was let go a couple of weeks later!).

  33. Stayc*

    Well, there was that time last week when I walked in for my interview, only to find out that the person I was meeting with (who was a previous co-worker) was out of the office. Because yes, I showed up on the wrong day. Backstory: I agreed with the recruiter we would try to meet on Friday. Somehow totally missed that in the confirmation email it was for the following Wednesday, so I showed up on Friday. Well the good news was the had me meet with a couple others in the office who liked me a lot, so they ended up sending me a job offer (and I accepted).

    1. W.*

      Oh gawd I did this. Now I always get the interviewer to follow up with an email with a confirmation of the date. (Which most do anyway.) That was mortifying they’d already done all the interviews, and I was at a really low point and ended up crying at a nearby park.
      But I swear the lady said the particular day and time on the phone. Completely forgot about that.
      I would have been good at that job too!

  34. Muriel Heslop*

    I was job-hunting after the dot-com I worked for went bust and secured a great interview with a well-respected company through a friend. Well, I got a concussion the day before the interview, and I was too nervous to to reschedule, thinking that they wouldn’t see me if I couldn’t come that day. I am pretty confident they thought I was drunk or high. It was awful. I am so glad that I can barely remember it!

  35. Dasha*

    Hmm… I think actually the worst would be listening to friends and family. At one point my mom insisted I follow up with family friends once a week for job leads and I did for awhile… :( yeah, oops sorry I didn’t know any better and I was like 22. She was adamant that you only got a job because you knew people… Uh, I may be the only one but to this day I have never gotten a job because of anyone I know. I’ve gotten jobs through either applying online or recruiters.

    On that note, I’m really glad I found Ask A Manager because I have like one friend who I really respect career wise and go to for advice, but everyone else is all over the place. My parents have no clue when it comes to the professional world and honestly, I wish they would have set me up with a family friend for a mentor or told me “I don’t know” instead of just blindly giving me bad advice. You kind of trust your parents’ judgment when you’re young but I wish I would have found something like AAM back in the day. It’s a totally new working world now.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Networking has helped me learn about job openings before they’re posted, and sometimes people have put in a good word for me, but I definitely think people exaggerate the importance of networking. People don’t just give you jobs because they know you.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I think it depends upon the job, but I don’t think that’s how most people get their jobs these days. (The only time it’s worked for me has been PT or temporary wage work, where the boss just trusts a good workers’ judgement or doesn’t have too much invested in a long interview process, because they just need someone to fill a space during vacation time. But these are also the types of jobs where the interview might be 15 minutes of questions and, “You’re hired!” Or not.)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I got a temp job once that way, but it was with a company where I had previously worked. I actually went by one day and asked if they had any openings, and they did–someone was going on mat leave and I filled in for six weeks. So the asking thing actually worked, but not because of “gumption.” It was just good timing and they knew me already.

          9/11 happened during that temp period too; someone brought a small TV in and we watched all day.

      2. SL*


        I’ve gotten strong references from previous jobs, but I’ve never gotten a job because I knew someone inside the company, or because I’d heard something from someone associated with said company.

      3. SevenSixOne*

        I know a handful of people who have gotten jobs through recommendations from friends and former colleagues. If I dig deeper, I learn that everyone who swears by CONNECTIONS!! and NETWORKING!!!1 always works in a very small, hyper-specialized field and the person who gave the recommendation has actually worked with them.

        … whereas my parents seem to think “I met a very nice person who works in [field you’re interested in]! I got their business card, why don’t you apply and mention their name in a cover letter?!” will magically open all the doors for me.

      4. Kylynara*

        I’ve gotten a couple of jobs by knowing the right people, but they were both low end unskilled part time work. They were very cushy for low end part time though.

        One, my Senior year of HS, was teaching basic computers to senior citizens at the local senior center, Igot because one of my teachers was asked for some recomendations and she suggested me.

        The other my mom worked doing billing for a day care. They had someone call in and quit one morning, she suggested I call the child care director (who I’d known for 7 years through Mom) to offer to take the job. She said to be there at 6am and bring a book. The entire job was showing up at 6am, unlocking a door, sitting at a desk, saying “Hi.” to everyone who came in that door, and locking it again at 9am. Occasionally, I was asked to help cut things out for the teachers or help with fire drills. I made 50 cents over minimum wage, and did my hair, read, crocheted, etc. on the clock. And I was apparently the best employee they’d had in the job in a long time.

      5. BananaPants*

        My husband has gone through two major job searches in the last 3 years and has never gotten a solid job lead through networking. He got his current position – where he knew no one and was starting in a new industry – by applying through LinkedIn.

    1. twig*

      I’ve gotten one job through a friend-connection. It was horrible and lasted only a couple of months.

      everything else has been temp-to perm or direct hire.

    2. Kat M2*

      *Note-name change because I realized there was another person with the same screen name.

      Networking worked for me a couple of times. Once, I knew a woman at a temp agency and, when I needed work, I let her know, and ended up getting placed. The second time was through a professional networking group I was part of. Someone sent an email through the list serv asking for resumes. I sent her mine and ended up at my current job.

      I came to realize that, a lot of the times, my networking contacts are good for giving general advice about careers, can point me in the right direction, and can let me know if they see something. All the same, while I got lucky, I also figured out that they can’t just get me jobs at the drop of a hat.

    3. Taylor*

      My parents were (retired now) a firefighter and a teacher. They have NO idea how private-sector business goes. (My mom STILL is shocked that I don’t get Columbus day off.) I remember asking them for interview advice and both of them looking at me blanking and saying, “I haven’t gone on an interview in 30 years.” Damn.

      I’ve also never really gotten a job through networking. People always seem surprised when they ask me who I know at the company to have gotten hired and I tell them, “No one, I just applied.” Weird.

    4. MommaTRex*

      I just realized that I’ve found most of my jobs through networking. Not so much a contact on the inside recommending me, but more along the lines of people telling me about openings.

    5. Margaret*

      I guess I technically got my first two jobs (during high school, and the summer before college), based on knowing people. But I can’t imagine that’d work for anything requiring a higher level of skills than these jobs did! Basically people who knew that I had a good understanding of their product (retail job) and seemed like a generally responsible teenager, or knew my parents and the gist of what kind of student I was/hadn’t caused trouble for my parents.

      I did lots of crafts and sewing growing up (and lived in a small-ish town), so the employees at JoAnn’s knew both me and my mom. By the time they figured I must be about 16, they actually asked me to apply. I had to interview, but was offered the job at the end of it, so I think it was mostly decided and I would have had to have screwed up badly in the interview to not get the offer.

      Then the Sunday after graduating high school, a friend of my dad’s (the office manager of a mental health clinic) asked him at church if I’d found a job yet, as he needed a temp person to help with general office stuff and do a couple specific projects. I can’t quite recall but I may have actually started on Monday, the next day, or at latest a week later. I didn’t have to do an interview, I may have filled out an application as a formality, but mostly just confirmed via my dad that I’d take the job. (By the end of the summer I found out that the office manager wasn’t well liked or respected, so his employees had been concerned about him just hiring some random kid, but I proved myself and they were sorry to see me go by the end! At that point I was considering majoring in psychology, so they even mentioned that I could probably somehow get experience hours there if I came back in future summers.)

      1. Margaret*

        To be somewhat more on topic, to the interview at JoAnn’s I wore a floral skirt (that I had adapted out of what was once a dress! So I suppose that made it appropriate for the context, though I don’t think I brought that up) with a short-sleeve sweater, and I would be with sandals. I suppose a suit would have been overkill for a 17-year-old applying to be a retail clerk, but I think what I did wear was probably at the very casual end of what is appropriate.

    6. mel*

      Amazingly, I’ve only ever gotten jobs through referrals by people I know. Rarely if ever get responses to online submissions because there are hundreds if not a thousand submissions!

      1. mel*

        **Of course I did prove myself to land those jobs and have ended up with stellar references from all of them, but people I know helped a lot to crack those doors open

    7. Kate Heightmeyer*

      I tend to nod politely and then ignore all job advice from family these days. My grandpa still lives with a “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” mentality. He recently told me that there was an opening for a “psychology position with a local school district.” Unfortunately I didn’t manage to track it down because I’d love to know what qualifications he thinks I have.

  36. My 2 cents*

    I am a hiring manager and someone just applied for a job at my employer. Under software skills along with Office, etc. they also listed “OpenTable”. For a second I thought maybe that meant that they knew how to program the OpenTable database but then quickly realized that no, the person knew how to use OpenTable to make restaurant reservations and thought that was a marketable enough skill to put on a resume. I was mortified for this person.

        1. Sue D. O'Nym*

          If you’re applying for a job as a hotel room assigner, then yes, Tetris skills could be very useful. Except, you’re not allowed to rotate the pieces. (“Instead of having 1 room for 5 nights, you’ll have 5 rooms tonight” … doesn’t really go over very well)

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Also, I assume that no one does a little Russian dance for you if you pull it off really well and quickly…

    1. alter_ego*

      was it at least for like, an event planning job or something? It’s awful either way, but it somehow seems even worse if they’re an engineer or an accountant or something

      1. Ama*

        It makes me wonder if they are currently an assistant and have to make reservations for their boss. I have had a few technologically challenged bosses in my time who thought my ability to do things like insert tables in a Word document was just a mind-blowing skill.

        1. Kairi*

          I spent a LOT of time at my old job showing my boss how to do basic formatting changes in Excel… he thought I was a genius!

        2. Three Thousand*

          Yeah, I’ve had bosses who barely knew how to check their email and might have been extremely impressed at having an assistant who knew how to make restaurant reservations online. Of course as likely as not they wouldn’t know what OpenTable was and would never think to google it.

    2. Sparkly Librarian*

      What about the restaurant side of OpenTable reservations? I’d imagine it would be a plus to be familiar with that if you’re applying in food service… any chance it’s on there because their resume is being sent to a number of entry-level positions?

      1. Helen of What*

        That’s actually what I was thinking. Restaurant and venue type places often have OpenTable as a required or preferred skill in their listings (even for back office jobs). And personally, I don’t take off skills that aren’t required, because you never know when they might be useful to the hiring manager but not listed in the ad. I leave my video and audio editing software on for customer support jobs, and that’s led to conversations about creating tutorial videos.

    3. squids*

      I saw a resume once that listed “barbecuing” under skills. (Was not for a job related in any way to food.)

      1. OfficePrincess*

        “Animal husbandry” for an office job in no way related to animals or any reproduction beyond photocopying.

    4. Softwhere*

      I didn’t realize that no one outside the company even knows what proprietary or educational programs like Passport, Medcin, and D/1500 even are, so there was no reason to list them in my software knowledge alongside the Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe CS4.

    5. T3k*

      Personally, I find it funny when someone even puts down “Microsoft Office/Word, etc.” under their skills because nowadays, it almost feels self-evident, sort of like someone putting down they can type.

      1. W.*

        Weirdly I’ve seen loads of job ads like that, including asking for the ability to use a computer and search on the internet (I’ve just found your job using the internet…)
        The annoying one’s ask for quite impressive skills and then say you should have a typing speed of 40wpm. I think I’m at 60-90 depending on my energy levels/interest.

        1. bkanon*

          I applied for a job that needed 35wpm. Typing test and all. I’m around 90-100wpm at my better days, so I finished their test in under two minutes. I didn’t get the job because “wow, that’s scary fast”.

        2. Anx*

          I’ve definitely worked (mostly volunteer positions) jobs where Microsoft Office would definitely be helpful but wasn’t a given among the employees. I admit I resented doing the computer work that senior, paid employees couldn’t figure out how to do. Ironically, one once asked me to type her resume, too.

      2. Kairi*

        One of the IT interns at my company spent an hour on the phone with a new employee explaining how to set up Outlook and send an e-mail. I’m really hoping that was an abnormal case, but I can’t be too sure.

      3. Anonsie*

        It always makes me second guess myself when I go to take it off and then see the listing inventories all the Office programs they want you to know how to use. I throw it in there for those since, if they felt they needed to specify, I wonder if this has been an issue before.

      4. Ad Astra*

        I’ve always felt the same way, though AAM readers seem to have tons of examples of applicants who can provide a resume but can’t use Word or even type.

        In my field, though, “Microsoft Word” is code for “Couldn’t think of anything else to list and there was still space on my resume.”

      5. LawLady*

        I always want to put “Excel (but no, really)” on there. I have advanced Excel skills (pivot tables, VBA programming, etc.) And I feel like the fact that everyone puts Excel as a skill dilutes it.

    6. MommaTRex*

      We had an applicant that mentioned they knew how to play solitaire when asked about their computer skills. No joke. We ended up choosing the candidate that just outright admitted that they had no particular computer skills, other than using the computer as a teller at a bank. Sounded much better than solitaire.

    7. pony tailed wonder*

      I work at a university and years ago, there was a very memorable student nicknamed Rusty. When my co-workers found out that I lived in the same apartment complex that Rusty did, they begged for stories. This was a guy who was a perpetual freshman who would argue with all of his professor about how wrong they are about things that they have spent their entire academic careers researching and writing books on. He also had an inexplicable (to me at least) ability to attract a lot of girls to his place. He always was dating several girls at once. One time a girl came up to his door and I heard the whole exchange. He had asked her for her password to her computer so he could help her out with her resume and edit it for her. She agreed to give it to him. Apparently he changed her resume from someone who was looking for a job as a recent grad in business to a hooker looking for clients. She never checked her resume before she sent it out. She found out when someone called her to tell her what she had been ending out. She came to his apartment and then called the police to come and arrest him. They arrived and he still wouldn’t come out of this apartment but she stood at the door and screamed at him to come out. Finally, the door opened and another girl came out and said she was sorry and that she didn’t know he was like that and she left. Then Rusty came out. The police explained that they couldn’t arrest Rusty for what he had done and that she needed to check everything on her computer since he had done that to her. She then burst into tears and said she thought he loved her and who was that girl, why wouldn’t Rusty take her back, etc. The police ended up telling her to call her friends to come and get her and told her friends what all had happened so they could talk some sense into her. The next day, still yet another new girl goes to Rusty’s apartment and stays the night.

  37. Adonday Veeah*

    I was working a temp job miles away from anywhere, so it was my practice to write on my calendar the time I had to leave in order to make my interview times. But for some reason, this time I wrote the time of the actual interview. So, that’s what time I left my office. Half way there, I realized my mistake, and wracked my brain to come up with a good excuse. I thought I had a dandy — I told them that a big-rig had jackknifed in front of me, blocking the road for an entire hour, and… oh, yeah, I was in a cell phone dead zone and so couldn’t call.

    Having shown up an hour late for my interview, they refused to see me.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Yes, this is why all Baby Boomers are wonderful screen writers and directors. (Because they grew up with TV.) I find it funny that there is an assumption that just because you grew up with a technology, you are somehow an expert in said technology. It’s usually the early adopters who learn the most of the inner workings. (Because they have to – early motorists had to be their own mechanics, for example.)

        1. Three Thousand*

          But like people were saying above, to this kind of person being a “tech genius” means knowing how to format a Word document properly.

          1. Moonbeam Malone*

            I had a boss who often brought up the notion of files being “corrupted” and it took me a while to realize he meant “overwritten.”

      1. Anonymous due to shame*

        The worst part is it wasn’t even true! My computer skills are average at best. My careers advisor at school told me to put it in my cover letters to distinguish me from old people who are completely computer illiterate. The shame…

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am chuckling. The man who repairs my computer is 82 y/o. Yep. 82. He slays me. So much for the Old People Theory!

    1. hiring manager*

      yeah, my experience is that some millenials are good with phones and apps, not so good with computers …

  38. Bee Eye LL*

    I applied for a job once where the HR department does pre-screenings, but I didn’t know that, so when HR asks me to come in for an interview, I went straight to the hiring department’s office instead of HR. When I walked in there and asked for the manager, everybody looked at me like I was crazy. I ended up getting the job anyway, but that’s how I first met all my co-workers – because HR people don’t communicate well.

  39. Amber Rose*

    That time I talked shit about my current employer in an interview, calling them liars and thieves. I cringe when I think about it. I knew from the reaction I got that it was wrong, but once I started digging that hole, she wouldn’t let me stop. I’ve really developed my professionalism since then, I swear!

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      I am ashamed to admit I did this in the last two years. I was unhappy in current position and one of the partners interviewing me changed the position for which they wanted to hire me to a higher position. Since they were in the same field, I knew they’d understand my complaints about my current employer. So I dramatically told them how backwards my current employer was (and those comments are still valid today) in terms of lack of technology. I guess they’d “save” me from my predicament? They did not condescend to be my heroes, nor did the recruiter deign to follow up with me. I still feel that egg on my face.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I worked at a place in my old industry that had heavy turnover. It was known as not a great place to work. I go on a phone interview and the interviewer’s like “Oh, that place? I heard it was a white-collar sweatshop.” Instead of changing the subject, I doubled down and decided to give him examples of the crapoy environment. I did not get the job.

    3. Poster Name Withheld*

      At an interview when asked why I was looking for another job I blurted out “because I’d like to stay out of jail”. That employer was shady and it was the truth. I did want to stay out of jail and get out of dodge before the crap hit the fan there.

        1. Poster Name Withheld*

          I wish. They looked horrified and moved along with questions. I made it to the second round of interviews so they must not have been too worried about my blurting out my exact reason for job searching.

    4. wynne*

      My current job is basically across the street from where one of my old food service jobs was, and the boss at that position was absolutely crazy. When the hiring manager casually asked what it had been like over there, the only thing I had the presence of mind to say was, “It was… interesting,” and leave it at that. Luckily she understood!

      Later I told another co-worker a more detailed version of what it had been like, and he just shook his head and said “I’m not surprised.” Since a lot of people at my current job order out for lunch, and since said restaurant is actually a pretty good option aside from the manager, I’m guessing there’s a reason none of my co-workers go there.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Well, isn’t that interviewer something else, eh? Didn’t want to hire you but most willing to sit there and listen to all the “dish” she could get out of you. I have seen this, but not often. The boss will let the interviewee ramble on simply because the boss wants to load up on the latest gossip. Am shaking my head. She knew that she should stop you but she didn’t. I’m thinking bullet dodged.

  40. Techfool*

    Thinking that an ATS autoreply was a genuine response, and responding by asking questions about the role. I was ignored.

  41. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

    I was interviewing for a job in my hometown (I lived about 2.5 hours south) as a federal contractor. Important note: I had to bring an ID so that I could sign in and prove my identity.
    As I headed to the interview from my in-laws’ house because I had been hanging out there for the day. I realized I didn’t have my wallet with me. I thought I just left it at my parents’ house because that’s where I had spent the night. I frantically called the admin telling her I might be a few minutes late because I had to go across town to get my wallet. I got to my parent’s house and realized I left my wallet at my house 2.5 hours away. Cue some serious panic. Luckily they were very kind and understanding, and we did the interview in a nearby hotel lobby.
    And I got the job.

  42. Government Worker*

    I once worked with teens aging out of foster care (helping them find jobs, get into school, etc.). Some of the highlights of their job searches included one guy (about 18) telling the female interviewer his talents included being great at performing oral sex, another boy’s voicemail message saying “if you don’t leave a message then I will gut you like a fish”, and I had given a girl some money for interview clothes (and told her what kind of clothing was appropriate) bought a short tube top and tiny denim skirt, and explained it as she looked much “hotter” in that then more conservative clothing. That job was never dull :)

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I have worked with that population before – I can imagine! And that is critical, unsung work – thank you for doing it!

    2. anon for this*

      I thought I didn’t have a good story for this, but you just reminded me!

      When I was very young and just starting out in the work world, I was interviewed by a not-much-older-than-me guy who barraged me with a bunch of rapid-fire, not-really-work-related questions and I was just supposed to answer with the first thing that came into my head. The last question was, “What’s one thing you’re really good at that you wouldn’t want your parents to know?” Answer: “Oral sex.”

      I got the job.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I’m trying to think of an answer that would have been more appropriate, but I’ve got nothing. And obviously your answer worked.

        1. anon for this*

          “My parents highly disapprove of my choice to file back to front instead of front to back” ?

          That was the thing…I really don’t know what other direction I could have gone in without prior warning. I guess that is what he was looking for?

  43. NickelandDime*

    I’ve sent unsolicited resumes, and followed up too much when I should have just let it go. I quickly learned to use my time more wisely.

  44. Chameleon*

    I was having what I thought was a pretty good interview, until it was my turn to all questions. I asked about opportunities for advancement (i.e. when I could get promoted). I thought out would make me look driven and ambitious. -_-

    Of course, I realize now that I was basically saying that I was uninterested in the job and would be trying to leave as soon as possible. Strangely I was not hired.

    1. W.*

      Lol you’ve only made me realize now that that’s not a good question, although I always thought it made you look like you planned to work your way up in the company and were looking to see if they had that possibility. Also you got to judge whether they actually offered the possibility for advancement…

    2. DesignatedSurvivor*

      I don’t agree that these are bad questions. One of the (many) frustrating aspects of my last job was that there was no room for training or advancement. I was there for ~2.5 years and was doing the exact same non-challenging work at the end that I was at the beginning. (I’ll be the first to admit that the job was a terrible fit overall but sometimes you gotta pay the bills.) When I interviewed for my current job I made sure to ask about the opportunities for professional development and advancement that would be available in the future. I think it does show ambition as well as self-awareness and that you’re willing to stay with the company in the long-term.

  45. Kelly L.*

    Wrote a cover letter extolling my attention to detail, for which I used a months-old letter as my template and left the old date on it. (I got that job.)

    Near miss: Interviewed with a manager whose name was really close to that of country singer Blake Shelton, but not. Just close enough to cause a brain fart. Was a hairsbreadth from clicking Send on my thank you email addressed to Blake Shelton. Whew, caught it in time.

      1. Anx*

        I think this is one of those things that sounds like something only careless people would do, but is totally understandable in the thick of a job hunt. There’s only so much tailoring you can do for each positions (especially when you are reapplying to postings) and even if you do, you essentially end up with tens to hundreds of permutations of the same basic idea. It’s so difficult to proofread. And if you’ve been looking for a while, even your proofreaders’ eyes start to glaze over.

    1. AVP*

      I have done that, with the dates and the templates. Also once showed up two hours late for an interview because I confused 12 and 2 in the initial email. And these are for very detail-oriented jobs :/

      I’m much better now, I swear.

      1. Charlotte*

        I did something similar when applying for an internship when I was in school. I put the wrong company down in the body of my cover letter (same industry though) and realized it only after I submitted it. I let that one go as a lesson learned and wrote it off. Fast forward a month or so and I get asked to come in for an interview for an internship. Lo and behold, my second interviewer (there were three) read my cover letter and noticed that I had put the wrong company down! This is in the same cover letter where I say I have great attention to detail. Needless to say, I apologized, but it was an awkward conversation after that. I was so surprised they let me come in for an interview but not at all surprised I didn’t get it. Really learned my lesson there.
        [please don’t use this in a future article]

  46. Lucy Ricardo*

    I had just graduated college and was working overnights at a retail store. I had put some applications out and got an interview at one of them. I was asleep when the interviewer called, and so I set up an interview but I didn’t write it down and promptly went to sleep after the call. So the interview day comes and I get a call from the company asking where I was. I realized that I had mixed up the days (I thought it was the following day). Unfortunately, all I could do was apologize but as the place was an hour away, there was no way I could get there in time and they didn’t have anymore interview slots open. I definitely learned my lesson, and now put interview dates/times in my calendar immediately.

    1. INFJ*

      This is totally something I would do. That short awake time in the middle of sleep is like the bremuda triangle of memory formation!

  47. cataloger*

    I interviewed for a job at a video store around the time Forrest Gump came out on video. The interviewer said that everybody who came in that day quoted it to him (“mama always said life is like a box of chocolates”, etc) and I probably rolled my eyes as I said how ANNOYING that would be. I did not get the job.

  48. Fuzzyfuzz*

    I used to call a week after I submitted an application ‘to follow up.’ This was on the advice of my mother who hadn’t’ had to do a job search in 20 years and told me that I wasn’t getting interviews because I wasn’t sticking out enough. Definitely don’t do that anymore.

    1. Ezri*

      I did this for various retail positions in high school and college, and never got hired. My Dad said it was because I wasn’t displaying enough interest by calling; I should have been visiting the store to ask about my application.

  49. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

    The heel broke off my shoe (3 inch heels) crossing the street going to an interview. I had no choice but to limp in with no heel on one shoe! Didn’t get the job.

    1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

      Oh, and one time I did not feel like going to a interview with someone I had actually met once, so I sent my youngest sister to pretend she was me. Cringe.

  50. Emily*

    After finishing uni I was stuck renting my neighbour’s dingy spare room and was desperate to land a job that would enable me to move elsewhere. I was firing out clunky CVs left, right and centre, but not hearing a peep back from anyone. For some reason I fixated on one position in particular – for which I was woefully underqualified – and in a moment of madness I phoned the company and asked for the manager by name, telling the receptionist that I had some questions about the opening – a complete lie but I was apparently convincing enough to be put straight through to this unsuspecting woman.

    I was so shocked to actually succeed that the ability to string together a coherent sentence utterly failed me and I babbled a load of nonsense at this poor woman, which was followed by an excruciatingly awkward silence because neither of us knew a good way to end the call. I was mortified, she was confused and no, I didn’t get the job (shocking!).

    We actually work in the same building now (but different companies) and have socialised in the same group on occasion. Luckily she doesn’t remember this particular incident, but it still makes me cringe…

  51. MegEB*

    One time when I was right out of college and looking for my first office position, I interviewed for a receptionist/office assistant position at a startup company in a nearby town. The current receptionist was apparently about to be fired so when I checked in, I had to say I was interviewing for one of the salesperson positions instead. When the hiring manager asked me what I was looking for in a job, I proceeded to tell him that I really just wanted an “awesome work/life balance” and how I didn’t want “one of those jobs where you’re always so busy”. To his credit, he handled it extremely well, but he was the owner and founder of the company, listening to some clueless college grad prattle on about how she didn’t want to work too hard. I obviously did not get a call back.

  52. AP*

    Long time reader, first time caller. When I was a new grad, I applied to about a million jobs and ended up spending 6 months trying to find something. I applied to multiple positions at a large local employer over this 6-month period, and one day I got a call back from them shortly after submitting a resume. I was absolutely thrilled and they wanted to start with an in-person interview. I spent hours prepping and learning about the program I was interviewing with, I got all dressed up in a hand-me-down suit that used to belong to my Mom, my grandpa helped me shine my shoes with actual shoe polish, and I set off on my big interview. I met with a panel of three women, and began spouting off all the stuff I had learning during my research. We get about three questions in and I notice that my answers and the info the interviewers are giving me aren’t really jiving. I suddenly realize that I am interviewing with the wrong job. And I could tell that around the time I realized this, so did my interviewers. One woman asked, very kindly, “Just to be clear, you’d be working with Program X, you understand, correct?” I was HORRIFIED. I don’t remember what I said, my mind essentially went completely blank and I can’t even remember how the interview ended.

    What had happened, was that I had applied for this particular job waaaaay at the beginning of my 6-month search, and they just happened to get back to me a few days after I had applied to another position with the same company. I, being young and dumb, assumed that this was the job I had recently applied to. Needless to say, I did not get the job, but one of the interviewers called me and expressed how much she appreciated my enthusiasm and that should I ever want to apply to a different position, she would be happy to help. Maybe she was just offering out of professionalism, but that kindness really meant a lot to me.

    I ended up getting a job with a completely different organization, and then moving on to another company after that. But guess what? I currently work for the company that I had the disastrous interview with! In a different department, doing a completely different job, but still!

  53. Mimmy*

    Ooh I just thought of a semi-recent one:

    I’d gotten an interview for a social work position with the county health department working in the early intervention system. I don’t remember if I’d applied, or they’d gotten my resume from someone in my network. Anyway, I’m unable to drive due to a vision impairment. However, I didn’t disclose this until I was at the actual interview. Interview was over in two minutes! In my defense, I wasn’t entirely clear if the position involved fieldwork or not. Now I ask ahead of time if driving is part of a given job.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This happened to me, with a clerical position at the courthouse–I didn’t realize and it didn’t occur to me to ask during the phone screen that the job involved handling money and balancing a cash drawer (nor was it mentioned!). I would need to look at the listing again, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t clear in the job description either, or I wouldn’t have applied at all. Anyway, I got into the interview (it was a panel interview) and ten minutes in, they brought this up and I was like


      I had to end it right there–it wasn’t worth wasting their time or mine. One interviewer looked crabby about it, and a couple of others seemed disappointed. I was really bummed, but I knew if I had got the job, I wouldn’t have been happy and probably couldn’t have maintained their standard (because it was government, the drawer had to be PERFECT and I couldn’t guarantee that.)

  54. GS*

    Not me, but I have a family member who did this one:

    She had just moved and was searching in an area with very few jobs. First interview went well with the temp agency. Second interview went well with the internal recruiter. Third interview with the executives was scheduled for Friday at 3 PM, then moved to Thursday at 10, then back to Friday at 10. You guessed it: she woke up at 10 on Friday and started getting ready before realizing the interview moved to 10 AM. She basically no-called no-showed. So, she spent an hour crying in bed, then an hour crying in the shower, before finally calling the temp agency recruiter and sobbed (in the way only a 19 year old could) into the phone while begging to be rescheduled. Recruiter basically told her never to call again.

    Silver lining! To her great credit, she pulled herself together and called the internal recruiter. She calmly explained that the meeting had originally been at 3 PM and had misunderstood and asked if she could still come in at 3. They agreed. In the interview she apologized profusely and explained that this had never happened to her before, to which the executive explained, “What has never happened? Did I miss something?” So, she explained what happened, and he said, “Oh, that happens to me all the time!” So she said it would be her job to fix that. The temp agency recruiter was FURIOUS, but she got the job and has been there for almost 5 years now.

    1. Kairi*

      That recruiter sounds like they weren’t qualified for the job if a rescheduling snafu caused them to say never call again.

      I’m glad to hear it all worked out though!

      1. GS*

        It had more to do with her hyperventilating on the phone, I think. That said, my experience with temp agency recruiters (especially in my home state) has been universally negative. Back home, there are so many people looking for white collar work that pretty much the smallest slight gets you knocked off their list, prior experience, fault or culture fit be damned.

        It’s a great story though. So proud of her. :D

      2. GS*

        (Hmm, I think my reply went into the void. Sorry if this randomly ended up on someone else’s comment!)

        I think the recruiter’s response had more to do with her hyperventilating on the phone. To be honest, the recruiter’s behavior is pretty par for the course in my experience. Especially in my home state, there are so many people looking for white collar work that they basically don’t care about culture fit, experience, etc. It’s about getting people into as many jobs as quickly as possible and collecting the fees, because there are 100 feasible applicants to each job.

        Honestly, my opinion of temp agency recruiters is fairly low in general, but that’s really just the nature of the beast.

        1. Kairi*

          I’ve never worked with a recruiting agency, but I could definitely see that being the case. Still glad for the happy ending for her! :)

      3. Recruit-O-Rama*

        You can’t really blame the Recruiter for thinking that a person sobbing into the phone over a missed interview is not a great candidate. It’s great for HER that she pulled it together and was able to reschedule directly, but it makes the Recruiter look bad when their candidates are flaky and unstable, which is probably how this candidate came off looking.

        1. W.*

          But the never call again part is a bit much. Also she got the job anyway and the actual company didn’t care, so by not bothering to see if they could sort things out I’m assuming the agency lost their commission? (Or at least I hope they did.)

          1. Recruit-O-Rama*

            They probably didn’t lose their fee, the contingency agreements are pretty straight forward. I am not a contingency Recruiter, I am an internal corporate Recruiter so I deal with the outside companies all the time. Some are good and some are bad. I certainly don’t blame the firm for not wanting to work with her again; she missed an appointment and then called in sobbing. I would not have said “don’t call again” exactly in that way, but I may have told her that we cannot work with her considering her lack of professionalism. It’s easy to blame the Recruiter (everyone always does- we are used to it) but all she had to go on was the behavior she had in front of her.

            1. GS*

              I think you’re right based on what I wrote above, and recruiting is a rough job. The recruiter did get the commission until they bought her out of her contract after a year.

              That said, in this case there were a ton of other things the external recruiter did that were unprofessional (demanded she FAX her resume in, called for an interview with no notice, told her that her footwear was innapropriate because her heels made too much noise on the marble of the lobby), and the recruiter berated my family member about how difficult it was to schedule all these interviews and how it’s all her fault she screwed this up and now she has to start all over, and she’d make sure she didn’t get a job anywhere if she lost her commission, etc. etc. Family was absolutely in the wrong with her reaction, but the recruiter was terrible (and almost cost her client what appears to be a perfect fit.)

              1. Recruit-O-Rama*

                The Recruiter sounds like a mess! I have a lot of sympathy for Recruiters who work for the temp agencies though because they are put under a LOT of pressure. MOST of their job is sales; they have to cold call a certain (large) percentage of their day to drum up business and don’t do much actual recruiting. Like you said, tough job. I prefer recruiting from the inside because I really get to know my hiring managers and I get to have longer term relationships with my candidates if they become hires. I’ve been with my current employer for a long time, but I remember the contingency days and they were painful. I try to cut them some slack.

            2. Observer*

              Why would he be furious, though? I get his reaction in the first place, even though probably a bit more harsh than it needed to be. But, clearly she got it together, and they wouldhave gotten their fee, so what’s the issue for him?

  55. Folklorist*

    I wrote a pompous cover letter for an internship about how great and all-knowing I was (hah!), then said that I was sending it and my writing samples (on fancy paper) express mail to the office, “because I don’t trust your online system to work.” (Yes, I wrote that in the cover letter.)

    I just…can’t even.

    1. Folklorist*

      PS: This was for a newspaper, and my writing samples included poetry, micro-fiction, and a short story. (Yeah, I should have gone anon for this one. Sigh.)

  56. Kairi*

    When I was in high school looking for a part-time job, I interviewed at a laser tag place. I was asked the dreaded “what is your biggest weakness” question. (At this time, I had no formal interview training). I panicked, looked around the room and saw kids playing on a bouncy house, and before I realized it, I had given the answer “I’m not that great with children”. I don’t ever recall being unable to take care of children, so I have no idea why that was the answer I provided.

    I didn’t get the job.

  57. KT*

    Out of college, I applied for what i thought was the perfect job. I did 2 phone interviews and they brought me in to meet with 6 different people throughout the day. I though it went awesome, and they said they’d let me know by Friday.

    Friday came…and urged on by the internet pros to encouraged “showing initiative”, I called them. And again. And just in case they missed it, I called right before 4:30.

    Then I did it again on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday.

    WHY I thought this was a good idea is beyond me.

    Eventually, they called me to say they had gotten my “multitude of messages”, but I wasn’t a good fit.

    I learned to put the phone down.

  58. #sorrynotsorry*

    When I was in high school, I and a friend had applied for a job at the public library to shelve books and assist with reference materials. My friend got called for an interview, and I did not. I showed up to the library and paid a visit to the hiring manager, to whom I said that I’d missed a call from the library while I was at school, but was unable to understand what had been said on the answering machine message. (False. There had been no call.) She interviewed me on the spot and I got the job. My friend did not.

    1. Anx*

      Was this job paid?

      I didn’t know you could get a paid job in the library unless you were librarian or were otherwise highly qualified. I thought all of the shelving, etc. was done by volunteers.

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        I work in a university library. We hire student assistants to shelve and do the general office detail work. Public libraries also hire people to do the same. It is very competitive in the library world. I know many people who have their MLIS (masters in library science) who actively compete for these jobs just to get their foot in the door and get the job experience to list on a resume. We have several library doctoral students working in student positions and several who volunteer with us until they can get a ‘real’ job.

      2. TychaBrahe*

        Not in Chicago. It’s done by library pages. I volunteered to straighten up the shelves in the teen room and was told that volunteer services were not wanted, because the librarians were protesting the cuts to the page budget.

      3. kelseywanderer*

        Yes, I worked as a library page in my (small town) public library all though high school and during summer/winter breaks in college. We shelved books, checked people’s books out to them, and did other assorted odd jobs.

        Also I was asked a few times when I would be able to graduate from a page to a chapter…

  59. Yep*

    I don’t know if this will be considered a “job search sin” – mostly because so many things were out of the norm with this work environment I honestly think my views on such things are a bit skewed – but maybe someone can provide insight for me.

    Years ago I used to work in a toxic environment, in a building that housed other companies, and there were other businesses in separate buildings on the property; they all paid us rent. A job opening popped up at one of the other businesses (not in our building) and I decided to apply, understanding the risk that they might tell my boss.

    Side note: a month earlier my prior boss left, and upon his departure, told me I should get out while I still can as well. If he’d still been my boss, he would have happily given me a recommendation, but this was not the case.

    Because the business I applied with was such reputable company (unlike the one I was working for), I thought it would be more likely they’d err on the side of that golden rule where you don’t contact current employers of job candidates.

    They did tell my boss, he confronted me, and it was awkward. My thought process was, okay, he’s basically their landlord, so they probably wanted to run things by him before giving me a shot, just to make sure everything’s out in the open. So I expected an interview, but they never called me for one.

    I was shocked they threw me under the bus without at least interviewing me, but was I in the wrong? Should I have acknowledged this conflict of interested and not applied?

  60. Blana del Ray*

    When I interview, my heart thumps out of my chest and feels like it’s ringing in my ears because I’m so excited and nervous. Once, I made a total ass out of myself at an interview by being overly confident for a job I was sure I would nab since the company was a performing arts school that sought a very unique combination of qualifications and background that, on paper, I possessed in spades.

    I rocked the phone interview, but then at the in-person interview, which was a group interview with 4 associate deans, I smiled like a lunatic, nodded insanely, and just assumed the whole interview was sort of a formality. I wasn’t paying attention enough, and I responded to a question with extreme insensitivity, but thought I was being charming and witty (they asked, “What would you do if a parent called and was upset that his/her child wasn’t cast in the afterschool theater program?” and I responded by saying, “Well, I’d say something like, ‘You know, Mrs. Johnson, I’m SURE your little Timmy can be in other plays some day, but not everyone can be a winner all the time.’ with a tone that was totally condescending.) I then finished the interview by saying I was a ‘yes woman’ to practically everything, but without going deep or truly thinking about my answers.

    I couldn’t believe they didn’t call me with an offer. It took me weeks to realize I’d blown it, not them. I finally replayed the whole interview in my head and saw it clear as day–I likely came across as an egocentric, irresponsible, heartless, fake person. That’s not who I am–and I’d never interviewed like that before. Sometimes, we just put on hats and guises we think will give us a leg up–but we just should be ourselves. At future interviews, I learned to calm the eff down, breathe, and show interviewers that I’m thinking before responding–and to stop trying to answer the way I thought people wanted me to answer.

  61. Jady*

    I had been unemployed for a few months. For a variety reasons, I was very sleep deprived at the time and my hours were basically reversed – I’d be up all hours of the night and asleep all day.

    One day I got an unexpected phone call out of the blue for a phone interview. The ringing woke me up and I answered out of sleep-haze habit. The person on the line expected to do it NOW, they weren’t calling to schedule.

    Obviously that went horribly, because I’d just woken up and couldn’t get my thoughts together. The person hung up on me, probably because I sounded like a drunk or something.

    I stopped answering the phone from then on. I’ll call them back.

    1. Hlyssande*

      That’s so freaking rude, to call and expect someone to be able to do a phone interview RIGHT THEN. Of course you weren’t prepared.

      I’m sure they just had a list of applicants to call through, and if someone didn’t pick up they were screwed…but still.

      Not okay at all.

    2. MaryMary*

      This kind of happened to me my senior year in college. I was interviewing for full time jobs, but was defninitely still living on a college student schedule. A recruiuter called at 9 or 10 in the morning. My roommate answered, and said “Oh, let me wake up Mary for you,” banged on my door, said “phone” and pushed it into my hand. The recruiter was incredulous that I was “still asleep.” I tried to play it off like my roommate just *thought* I’d been asleep, when really I’m a go-getter who’s been up for hours, but I’m pretty sure my groggy mumbled “hello?” gave me away.

      Luckily, the recruiter was just calling to schedule a phone interview between me and the hiring manager, and I eventually got the job.

      1. Anonsie*

        “Still asleep” at 9 or 10am? Isn’t the golden rule to never call people at home before 10am because they’re likely to be asleep? I mean, it’s normal to make morning calls for business purposes, but if you know you’re calling someone at home then don’t be shocked if they are sleeping in the morning. Or any time of day, man, you don’t know what’s up. People take naps and work odd shifts.

        Part of my job involves calling people at home and I make a point to not to it in the morning. Nothing burns my grits like getting woke up in the morning by the phone but ESPECIALLY by an appointment reminder call, which I already hate but I hate extra when I’m trying to sleep. “Hi, may I please speak with Anonsie? We just wanted to remind you that you have a teeth cleaning appointment on Friday at 8am!” I say thank you but I really mean BOOHISS. I know some practices you don’t get to chose when during they day you make your calls (I get to pick, so I pick the end of the work day) but still: Boo. Hiss.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, Do Not Disturb has been a lifesaver since I started working weird shifts. Calls before 9 am don’t get answered.

  62. Bostonian*

    Out of curiosity I just went back and looked at my resume from my job search when I graduated from college. It included my high school GPA (which was a 4.0, so I can understand why 22 year old me thought I should keep it, but ugh), the very stilted “familiar with a wide variety of personal computer software” and listed both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator in my list of software skills. Even the fact that it was 2003 doesn’t keep that from making me cringe.

    That folder on my computer also contains the Word doc that I used as a job search to-do list, which I apparently named “Aaaack”.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      OMG, I remember listing internet browsers and specific search engine websites on my resume! It was also 1997 or something, but I never really believed it was a good addition and took it off after only a couple of send-outs.

  63. CorporateDr0ne*

    Oh man, I still cringe thinking about this.

    I accepted a job at another company, had already given my 2 weeks notice. Got cold feet about 2 days before training was supposed to start. I called the company and had to rescind the offer, AND tell my old company I wanted to stay.

    Most embarrassing moment of my life.

    It’s a good thing I didn’t start at the new company, though. They fired the whole department that hired me months later.

  64. Kyrielle*

    I got an interview for a job that was a real stretch position for me (they’d listed everything they wanted, not just the must-haves, as requirements, it later turned out). In any case, I was really nervous. I did not want to be late – so I left early, and was like a half hour early. I therefore stopped at a store to get a bottle of water, use the restroom, and calm down.

    I locked my keys in the car. An hour later, the car had been unlocked, I had my keys, and I could go interview. The ONLY saving grace was that I had called them as soon as I knew, explained that I couldn’t be on time, and why. They said it was fine and they went out to lunch and interviewed me when I got there – because I had been the last interview before lunch.

    I guess it can’t have been completely horrid; I got the job! But it’s not exactly the impression I wanted to make when interviewing.

    1. W.*

      Actually it probably worked in your favor. Judges have been seen to give harsher sentences before meals, then after meals. Something to do with making decisions taking up energy/brain power.
      So it’s always better to be after lunch :)

  65. Lizard*

    Both of mine relate to thinking something is at a different time than it actually is:

    I had an admission interview at one of the Harvard graduate schools. They did them in chunks where the same interviewer would interview 4 different people in 30 minute private sessions while the others did a group interview with current students. Despite having the schedule in hand, I somehow thought my slot was the 2nd group when it was actually the first. My interviewer had to come out and find me. It was horribly humiliating and really threw me off during the interview. Unsurprisingly, I did not get in to the program.

    Seven years later I was finishing my graduate program and interviewing for jobs. One job had a full-day interview process with about six separate interviews at three separate sites. Somehow, even though I’d written down the right time, I got it in my head that my first interview started 30 minutes later than it actually did (9:30 instead of 9:00). I realized my mistake on the subway at about 8:53. I exited the subway immediately, lied like a rug about subway problems (fortunately the subway in that city was notorious for delays) and took a taxi to the interview (which took just as long as continuing on the subway would have, as it turned out). I got there at 9:30, the saintly admin rescheduled the whole tightly-choreographed day of interviews, and I did get the job, but hoo boy.

    I do seem to have more or less learned my lesson now, though.

  66. E**

    This starts as a job sin story, because the interviewee for our entry-level position showed up 20 minutes late. The context you need is that this was Boston during our historically snowy winter this year, although about a week after the most recent snow event. She showed up and explained that she had taken the bus and hadn’t accounted for having to clamber over 10 foot snow banks that had been deposited onto sidewalks by the plows. I was a little softened, but it was still going to be a pain to reschedule the first interview, which was a phone interview with someone in our main office. Nope. She had called in herself WHILE making her way through the snow, had explained the situation and completed the interview, and was still on schedule. We hired her.

    My own sin: I was interviewing for a technical position at the time I was completing my dissertation on Teapot Construction, and I was feeling flustered but wanted to impress (not a good combination, folks). I made not one, not two, but three easy technical errors while explaining to them how I would improve on their Teapot Construction process -not that they had specifically asked for my input on their process, mind you. These were voluntary explanations I made in response to their description of what they were doing. They must have thought I was an idiot. I felt like one. Job denied.

  67. JMegan*

    I showed up for an interview a week early! This was me:

    I want to thank Alison for the tough-love response, and the commenters for sharing similar stories, and reassuring me that it wasn’t the end of the world.

    As it turned out, it was only the HR person who knew about my mistake. She was incredibly nice about it, both at the time and when I came back on the correct day, and let me know that she had not told the hiring committee. I didn’t end up getting the job, but at least I was able to interview on my own merits, rather than having to live down an embarrassing mistake!

  68. Resume Liar*

    I’m going annoy for this one since I’m still relatively new in my career and this wasn’t that long ago. I had a job that I worked at on and off at for a few years after college. I pretty much just helped out around the office wherever help was needed. My boss told me I could put whatever I wanted on my resume and he would vouch for me. At some point I was so desperate to get a job that I started putting I was a manager and I would just take parts out of the job description that I thought I could handle and it put it on my resume under duties. I made up complete random numbers about my achievements. After the first few phone interviews, it was very clear how quickly the interviewers could tell I had BSed my whole resume. Instead of learning my lesson, I just tweaked it to make it seem like I had a pretty legit job when in reality I was basically just answering phone calls. There were a few interviews that I was really able to BS my way through but it wasn’t until I started telling the truth that I got actual job offers. I also realized how much easier it was to interview when you didn’t have to lie!!

    I live in a bit of fear that there are still several copies of my resume still floating around in there, all with different titles and descriptions. I can only hope I never cross paths with any of the interviewers that saw right thru me!

  69. Anon123*

    I was on a phone interview with a hiring manager and she invited me to an in-person interview. She instructed me to call her when I arrived to the location because the building was swipe-access only. It wasn’t until I hung up that I realized that she called from a blocked number. At the time I didn’t sweat it because I thought I could google her name with the company’s name to get her office number. But then I realized she didn’t provide her name (I believe she only said I’m [title] from [name of company]) so I couldn’t google. I tried calling HR to get her information but obviously they couldn’t release that information. Fast forward two weeks to the interview date and I arrive at the interview location. There was a phone outside of the building with a directory posted next to it so visitors could alert their hosts that they arrived. I knew the department she was in, so I called every person in that department until I got in touch with the hiring manager (her last name was towards the end of the alphabet). I was 15 minutes late because of this and ended up bugging her entire office. Needless to say she was not pleased when she met me. She still conducted the interview but I did not get that job. I guess the moral of the story is to always make sure you have your interviewer’s contact information.

    1. CJ*

      If I were the hiring manager, I would be the one to be mortified I hadn’t given you the appropriate info to get into the building and would have apologized.

  70. Ex teen goth*

    As a 16 yr old, I was applying for local basic admin vacancies, and was invited to interview for one of them. Despite this being my first interview, I knew I had to dress up “nice” to impress.

    My taste in “nice” as a 16 yr old wannabe goth however was questionable. I went to the interview in my favourite outfit – bright purple baggy jeans, a distressed black vest top covered with a white fishnet long sleeved top, giant heavy rocker boots, thick black eyeliner and dark purple lipstick.

    The interview lasted all of 10 minutes, and much to my surprise (at the time), I wasn’t called back for a second interview.

    10 years on, my current interview clothes are much more conservative and work-appropriate!

  71. Bend & Snap*

    I was atrociously late for two different job interviews at two different points in my career.

    The first was for an admin position at Harvard Business School (don’t work there). The directions from the staffing agency were so bad that I missed my interview trying to find it. Tried again the next day and got the job (fired 3 months later because I was a horrible, horrible admin. Sweet relief).

    The second was for a job in my current field. I was just straight up really late. Like 45 minutes late. Without a great excuse. They hired me too.

    I do not recommend being late for interviews. Those both turned out to be dysfunctional workplaces that were nicer to interviewees than employees.

  72. HRish Dude*

    When I was 16, I worked at a grocery store and they changed my schedule while I was on vacation with my family and added me to work a day while I was out of town. As in, I was out of town – they put me on the schedule while I was out of town and I was never in town to see the schedule to dispute I would miss that day.

    They scheduled a meeting with me and I assumed I was getting fired, so I went to apply for some other jobs and on every. single. application, I wrote “terminated” as my reason for leaving.

    Needless to say I never heard from them.

  73. INTP*

    I nearly ignored an interview request because I thought it was to work at the local football stadium when it was really for the most prestigious private employer in the city, which the stadium happens to be named after. That internship pretty much set up my career so thankfully, the HR person followed up with a phone call to my home phone and my parents heard it and told me to call her back! (My parents had some of their connections distribute my resume for potential internships.)

    Other than that, the worst thing I really did was call to follow up on my online application. Generally that resulted in a terse “The position has been filled” or “We’re still reviewing resumes” but one time it essentially led to an argument over whether it was really feasible for me to move to a new city. I was applying to jobs in the central area of the state while living in the southern area, and the person who answered my call apparently took issue with that and kept asking “You know this is in TeapotVille right? But you live in Saucer Town? Do you even know anyone in TeapotVille? How are you going to move?” I didn’t get the interview, clearly.

  74. tesyaa*

    I once showed up at 9 am instead of noon for an interviewer. Not sure if I misheard the recruiter or she misheard the hiring manager, or whether I just got it wrong. They offered me coffee to keep me busy while they were trying to decide whether to fit me in at 9:00, and I proceeded to spill the coffee all over my interview suit.

  75. Mena*

    I was invited to interview at a mid-sized consulting firm in a metropolitan area. At the time, I had a Bachelor’s, an MBA, and 10 years work experience. The office was strangely silent, no one in sight at all; people scheduled to interview me would come into the conference room one-by-one, interview me, leave, and the next one would come in. I poked my head in the hallway at one point and could not see or hear anyone at all.

    This one senior VP started by asking me about my first job, and each and every job thereafter (I was a chambermaid at a high-end inn, then I worked in and managed a Dunkin Donuts, then I worked for Sears … all of these were between age 13 and 19). He continued asking me why I did these jobs, what I learned, what were my goals.

    After one hour, he now had 11 pages of notes and I wanted out. Out of this room and away from this nut case, out of this creepy office, out of this town. I sucked it up and kept going simply because a recruiter had arranged this visit and I hoped for additional referrals from this recruiter.

    Now we are at the two hour mark and we’ve yet to discuss my actual skills and experiences. I was annoyed with this senior VP weirdo and getting increasingly distracted. He asked me why I chose such and such graduate school and I simply stopped in my tracks, made some exhausted sound of disgust and said, “I don’t know.” (I chose the school because the program was focused on full-time working professionals – a good answer that he didn’t receive)

    He is still scribbling notes. I politely said that it was time to wrap things up (he was my last interview that day). I called the recruiter from my car and told him that the company culture was not a fit. He called me back the next day to say they wanted me to come in for another round of interviews and I declined.

    In the ensuring 10 years, I’ve been approached twice more by this compay and I have declined to interview with them. One recruiter tried to tell me that there was considerable change at the executive level and I should consider meeting them again; I said no way.

    1. W.*

      Doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong, especially if they chased after you to try and arrange other interviews.

  76. HRmeister*

    When I was asked about touch typing at an apprenticeship interview, I thought the interviewer was asking about typing on a touch screen, so I answered with this in mind. I now know what touch typing really is.

  77. "Jayne"*

    When I was fresh from college and searching for any job that wasn’t retail, I sent in a cover letter to a law firm for an open receptionist position. I stated in my letter that I paid extreme attention to detail…and then completely forgot to close the letter with “Sincerely, ‘Jayne'”, before I sent it. I didn’t get a call back for that one.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’m beginning to think (based on painful personal experience, lol) that the moment you say you pay attention to detail, you’re doomed to make a mistake. It’s a jinx, like pointing out someone else’s misspelling. :D

      1. Collarbone High*

        It’s so true. I’ve done a lot of hiring for copy editors, and it’s almost an ironclad rule that anyone who mentions excellent proofreading skills will have a typo within two sentences.

  78. straws*

    I canceled a 2nd interview by telling them my Grandmother had passed away. You know, because “I’m no longer interested” was just too complicated. Youth is an odd thing sometimes…

    1. Kairi*

      I had this weird habit in school of internally coming up with ridiculous reasons to get out of stuff. I took it as a challenge when someone told me there were NO EXCEPTIONS for missing something.

      I think this carried over professionally, because I still sometimes come up with excuses when there is no reason for them.

  79. Bend & Snap*

    Oh, I withdrew from a job for “personal reasons” once. In reality when I met the people I would be working for I was all, “NOPE NOPE NOPE RUN AWAY.” So instead of telling them it wouldn’t be a fit, I made up a vague excuse. They were mad.

    1. Kairi*

      I resigned from a job for “personal reasons” once, when in reality I was going insane from the toxic environment. It’s so easy for the company to reject a candidate, but it seems that some companies aren’t great about handling rejection themselves.

  80. Voluptuousfire*

    Years ago I had applied for an office manager role. They emailed me back, asking for a phone screen. I wrote back, but didn’t proofread my email before I sent it and I misspelled the woman who emailed me’s name. This was on a Monday. On Wednesay, I got another email from them at my other email address, saying they had found me on Monster and wanted to speak to me about the same role. They didn’t realize they had the same person. I wrote them back, saying I had heard from them earlier that week and never got confirmation for a phone screen. Turns out they “trashed” (the recruiter’s words) my resume because of the name snafoo and it was obvious I wasn’t detail-oriented and that was a large part of the role, so they decided to renew my interview without telling me. I was shocked.

    I thenwrote them a severely annoyed letter, saying how unprofessional they were and I dodged a bullet, so on, so forth. I cringe at the thought of it now. Why even bother? I burned a bridge, but again, considering their behavior, it wasn’t much of a bridge to begin with.

    To this day, it’s still my worst interview experience and I think the company’s out of business.

  81. Christine*

    I had a second interview for a job where the dress code was much more business-like than my current position so I had to shop for clothes to wear to the interviews. I picked out two outfits. The first was a dress like Claire would wear in House of Cards. Probably a bit sexy but I wore it and got the second interview. For the second interview, I rushed home from my current job (jeans/tshirt) to change into a suit that I purchased. Lo and behold, Macy’s forgot to take the security tag off the jacket. Ugh. I didn’t have anything else that fit me and no time to run to Macy’s to have them remove it. I searched for YouTube videos on how to remove a tag but couldn’t find one that would work. I had not other option than to wear the suit with the security tag still on. Thankfully, it was under the armpit and I just kept that arm close to my side so that the interviewers couldn’t tell. Lesson learned–if you are buying something specific for an event, be sure to check that the tags were removed. After all that, I got the job!

    1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      You know, every time I’ve had a security tag not be removed, it’s been from a Macy’s

      1. JennyFair*

        Ditto. They told me that some of their clothes have them, but many don’t, so often they don’t look very hard. Which…gotta admire that kind of dedication on the job. But more importantly, why doesn’t it ever sound the alarm? What’s the point of the tag?

        1. Mephyle*

          It may be the kind of tag that doesn’t sound an alarm but releases ink and ruins the garment if you try to take it off in an unauthorized way.

    2. TootsNYC*

      My friend bought a cool sweater to wear for New Year’s Eve, and the security tag was still on it.

      Yep: if you buy clothes for a specific reason watch out for that!

  82. Anon for this...*

    I had an interview that was going fairly well until I was asked “How would you describe our product to parents?” I froze because the question seemed familiar. I did recover enough to come up with a generally acceptable answer, but as soon as the interview was over, I double checked. Sure enough, I’d done a TV interview in which I mentioned their product BY NAME as one that children should never ever be allowed to use. It was one of the first things that came up when I googled my name. If I’d been thinking a little quicker I would have come up with a ‘and this is why you need me’ answer, but I didn’t and unsurprisingly never heard from them again.

  83. Anna*

    During the highlight of my laid off period I know I sent at least three cover letters where I updated the position in one place and forgot to update it in another.

    1. Sascha*

      I feel bad for people who do this, but sometimes it’s really telling. Like the one time I was hiring for an entry level tech support position, and someone mistakenly sent us the cover letter for a director-level position over seeing program curriculum (at a university). Two such wildly different jobs…I had to wonder why she was applying for both of them.

      1. Anna*

        That is a level of wanting to find a job that I can empathize with. There comes a point where you’re just going scattershot hoping to hit something.

        I was just at a job fair where a woman was really excited to see me because she really wants to work here. She is just so excited to that we are within walking distance of her house and she’s applied for director level, staff level, instructor position, finance position. Pretty much anything that was open and not residential advisor or recreation aid. She also gave me her resume, which included her photo. I wanted to sit her down and give her a good old-fashioned Alison talking-to.

        1. Anx*

          I can, too.

          As a ‘new’ grad, it can be really hard to tell where I would fit. I find I’m not quite appropriately qualified for any particular positions, even at places were current employees encourage me to apply (but aren’t on the hiring end of things). I have had people ask me what I was doing wasting my time applying for positions when I had a degree and some interesting experience, whereas I had worried that it was a stretch because I hadn’t done THAT particular job before.

          Also, some companies don’t make it very clear what level of experience they’re looking for. Some might list level of education and nothing else.

          I totally understand that a good applicant would be more focused, but eventually you need to find a job above all else.

  84. Former Museum Professional*

    I applied for a technical editor position, made it to the third round of interviews, and misspelled a word in my thank you email (it had to be email because the interview was Friday and they were making the decision that afternoon and would notify Monday). I immediately sent an apology and a correction, but to this day it haunts me because I didn’t get the job.

    1. W.*

      Recently done something similar, had to send a writing sample, forgot a character’s name, left a line in there to replace later, then sent it off. Went back to try and correct it and probably made things far far worse. I doubt I’ll hear anything about that one.
      Also realised I left a word out of a cover letter – something like ‘on’ as I sent it. Gah…

  85. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    When I was in high school, I was applying for a position at the local supermarket. I had filled out my application and now I was supposed to come in and meet the hiring manager. I got all dressed up in a nice skirt and sweater. Since I was wearing heels, I asked my buddy for a ride to the store after school in his busted up old pickup truck so that I wouldn’t have to walk.

    He pulled up in front of the store (huge plate glass windows all across the storefront, of course) to let me out… at which point I remembered that his (probably not street-legal) truck had doors that didn’t open or close. You had to climb in and out the window, Dukes of Hazzard style.

    And THAT was my manager-to-be’s first impression of me.

    I did get the job, though…

      1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

        I seriously don’t even remember the part about getting in!!! I guess I must have climbed in that way, too (but in the school parking lot so no big?) I think I assumed I’d have more privacy getting out than I did… LOL.

  86. Pam*

    When I was 20, I sent out resumes with a Rolodex card preprinted with my name and contact info. Because, obviously, my 2 years of secretary work made me such a rare and outstanding candidate that everyone would need to add me to their Rolodex, right?

    16 years later I still cringe at this.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      Some companies are still super-old fashioned and had you applied to the admin position we had open here two years ago, you’d probably would have been offered the job on the spot. Seriously. My boss keeps a Rolodex on his desk and we still type up Rolodex cards. It’s not necessary a bad thing – it works! – but then when he’s out of the office and he wants to call someone (from his iPhone 5s), he calls the office for one of us to get the number off of the Rolodex. -_-

  87. Ife*

    I started reading AAM a few months before I started applying for post-college jobs, so I knew it was important to send a thank you note after the interview. Problem was, I didn’t have internet at my apartment, so I wrote up a template thank you note for my interviewers at Company A and planned to send them when I went to visit my friend that evening. Well, I got to her house, got distracted and ended up addressing each email to the same interviewer! And then, (I just kept digging myself in deeper), I sent a follow up email to each of them apologizing for addressing the email wrong! Never heard back from them…

  88. kf*

    Many years ago, I had gone through a personal tragedy and had to move in with my parents to find a better job to support myself. Since I had moved from a rural area to a large metropolitan city, the same question came up in every interview, “Why did you move to ‘metropolitan city’?” I tried to prepare for this question but 9 times out of 10 I would burst into tears and blurt out “my boyfriend died in a car accident.” I am still shocked that companies offered me a job after I did that.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      OMG I’m so sorry.

      NOT the same but in my interview for my current job I blurted out that my dog had just died. Why…? Still no idea where it came from.

      I think that’s an easily forgivable/understandable reaction to what you went through.

      1. Anna*

        When I was 20 my cousin died in a very unusual way and I had moved to be close to my aunt and with my family in general. I was applying for a position at the company he actually had worked for so when they asked me why I moved to that particular town, I paused for what seemed like ages but was probably only about three seconds and then carefully answered, “To be close to my family.”

        There is no easy or appropriate way to answer that question when your move is made under those circumstances. I wasn’t even prepared for the question.

    2. Carrie in Scotland*

      I did that after my mum died. I left my job at the time (retail) because I couldn’t handle it. For some reason, I decided working in a mother&baby chain would be a better fit. Naturally, in my interview they asked why I left my previous job and I said that I had gone through a close bereavement.

      I didn’t get the job and realised (after a temp job) that I simply can’t work in retail anymore.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think the solution to that sort of thing–or any tricky, emotional-type question–might be to address that topic really early on, so you’re the one in control.

      Would work for things like, “Why are you looking to leave your current job?” or “why did you leave the last job?” Anything that’s weighted for you.

    4. W.*

      I think most interviewers would feel bad that they had asked, and feel badly for you, rather than thinking you shouldn’t have said anything, obviously it was still raw and you were honest – maybe that’s why you got the job – sometimes interviews just feel like you’re acting like a performing monkey (on both sides of the table) and it’s just a silly game which neither side is answering honestly. But anyway I don’t think that’s something you should feel badly about at all.

    5. Amber Rose*

      I had to reschedule an interview after my mom unexpectedly died. I asked if it would be OK to move it to later in the day as we were going to a nearby city so I could see my cousins/uncles.

      When I got to the interview and introduced myself, the guy said, “oh, you’re that girl who was on vacation” in the most mocking tone you can imagine. The actual interviewer was kind, but I was so messed up and angry that I blew the whole thing.

      In hindsight, there’s no way I would have liked working there. But at the time I was mortified.

    6. Nelly*

      I had one similar… they asked me where I was from and I said: South Australia

      So they made a joke about how that’s the bizarre axe murder capital of the world (it was at the time, no idea if it still is).

      I said: “I know, my cousin was axe murdered. And her baby. The killer stuffed them in the boot of her car for her husband to find.”

      I didn’t get that job. Oddly, I don’t think that was the reason, though.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I can see companies still making an offer in an instance like yours. I bet the interviewer has been where you are and totally related to the flood of emotion you had. And I really don’t see how crying over a loss is an indicator that someone cannot do the job. People cry when they suffer a loss, that does not make them unemployable nor does it prove they are lousy workers.
      They asked you a question, you answered. They opened the door for that situation, not you.

  89. OHNO*

    During a retail interview when I was 16 I talked about going out/drinking/partying and how I cut back and really improved my grades to show responsibility.

    Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. I still cringe, so bad. I was absolutely old enough to know better!

  90. Ihmmy*

    sent a resume and cover letter with the email basically saying “I know it’s past the application deadline, but I’m the bestest person for this job ever!!”. Shockingly didn’t get a call for an interview.

  91. Katie*

    When I was in high school my boyfriend’s parents got me an informal job interview for an office assistant with an attorney in our small town. I just needed to stop in, introduce myself and make a good impression. I was super nervous about it and then just decided to go for it on my way home after discussing it with my little sister…after a marching band practice, wearing an oversized sweatshirt, shorts, flip flops. That’s appropriate for an interview at an attorney’s office, right? They did let me in to see the attorney, but that was my last time talking with him. My boyfriend was totally flabbergasted when I told him. I still cringe when I think about it, but for the most part laugh about how silly 16 year olds are – I really thought I knew it all then.

    I really got off to a bad work start – I quit my first formal job (like not babysitting) a couple months later after a month. I just really, really hated being a grocery store cashier.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I have to say, you would have been kicked out of my high school’s marching band practice if you were wearing flip flops, never mind the attorney’s interview. (How do you roll step in flip flops?)

    2. Amber Rose*

      I sympathize on that last one. I worked about 2 months in a large grocery store before just walking out and never going back. I didn’t call to quit or anything.

      I’m not proud of it but I don’t beat myself up for it either. Some jobs are just too awful.

  92. Stephanie*

    I sent an email thank you note and then sent a handwritten one (with more info) the following day. Never heard back…

  93. Adam*

    I think my only serious offense was showing up very late to two different interviews (different jobs and companies). We’re talking over 30 minutes late. Thing is each time I had left on time, but the directions I found sent me the wrong way. I would call on my cell phone and apologize profusely explaining the issue and that I was going to be late, and each time my interviewers were understanding. But I still ended up being really late to these appointments and I never got any callbacks from these jobs after the fact.

  94. Anna*

    I would also like to include some channeling of Ask a Manager that I just did last week. A friend of mine is in search of a job and is looking at switching career tracks entirely. He’s been seriously considering nursing and so has been focusing his job search efforts on a large local research hospital. It happens that if you’re working at this university you a) get a discount on tuition and b) are more likely to be accepted in to a highly competitive program. Anyway, he is also an comic artist and has a webcomic. He posted asking for advice on whether or not to include a panel of his webcomic to illustrate (ha) what he talked about in his cover letter. At this point Alison started to speak to me and I told him he WOULD stand out, but not for any of the reasons he wanted to, that including the link to his webcomic in his cover letter was enough, and that unless he was applying for a position that included drawing webcomics about nursing, he should not include it.

  95. CoffeeNerd*

    – When told part of my job duties would involve bathroom cleaning, I made some horrible joke about being a baby-sitter and used to having “dirty hands hurr hurr”.

    – I recently cleaned out my closet and found some of the items I wore to my college internship. I am fairly certain that the entire office saw my butt that summer.

    – I REALLY wanted my current job so I went to Target and bought the nicest (flowery!!!) thank you cards I could find. I hand wrote a card to all five people who interviewed me and UPSed the lot to the office. Not the worst mistake, but I cringe thinking of how naive that would have seemed!

  96. Stephanie*

    Oh, another. I was in college and the interviewer wanted a story about a challenge I overcame. I answered working through weight loss and physical therapy for an injured knee.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      While in college (about 18 yo) and interviewing for a summer position, the interviewer (who didn’t look too much older than me) asked me something about a situation that required dedication and the only thing that came to mind was the fact that I had played the piano for over 13 years. The position ended up being a Cutco sales rep and later, she informed me that the fact I had stuck with playing the piano for so long impressed her.

      1. Stephanie*

        I mentioned this before. I don’t know if is this is why I got the job in particular, but I had an internship interview where the interviewer was very impressed that I played the cello for so long. I think it just helped flesh me out from the other students (because a lot of us, being college students, had pretty similar resumes). It also was like the very last thing I talked about after answering all his other questions (and he asked about my hobbies).

    2. F.*

      What’s wrong with that? That IS quite a challenge! And it shows determination, self control and perseverance in the face of adversity, all admirable attributes.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I agree. It’s not like you’re Gloria from “Auntie Mame” talking about the hardship crushing a ping-pong ball during a club tournament.

  97. NYC Redhead*

    Based on the advice of my college’s career office to have an “eye-catching opening line” on your cover letter, I used the words: “You’ve seen the rest, now see the best!” You know, like from the pizza box. I cringe even typing it. (In my defense, it was going to a family friend for an internship position that was practically guaranteed, but still.)

    This same office also said that one should only use 100% cotton paper. (This was in the 90s.)

    On the receiving end, I’ve interviewed folks who showed up 30 to 45 minutes early, which, contrary to popular belief, does not show initiative, it’s just annoying. There’s a Starbucks next door, for Pete’s sake. Go kill time there.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Early is good. TOO early is not. I was always told early should be considered 10-15 minutes at most. Otherwise it’s just weird for everyone. Like you forgot when you were supposed to be there, or have no respect for other people’s schedules.

      1. Observer*

        Even that can be a bit of a problem, if the interviewer has back to back meetings, which is not uncommon. I would always advise having something you can do while you wait (which does NOT require asking anyone for anything, much less a wifi password.)

  98. Stargazer*

    Several years ago in my late-20s (so, no excuse) I had moved back to my home state and was looking for a full-time job. I applied for a job doing communications at a credit union and was called in for an interview. The interview was at noon, but I somehow managed to sleep really late the day of. I woke up, panicked, threw on some wrinkled but otherwise interview-appropriate clothing, and got there about 10 minutes late. I had planned to do some research on the company that morning, so that ended up not happening. The two women who interviewed me asked me perfectly reasonable questions…that I couldn’t answer. For example, I didn’t even know what a credit union was or how it differed from a bank.

    I finally fessed up that I was unprepared and apologized. They were gracious but needless to say, I didn’t get the job. I still cringe when I think back on that experience.

  99. T*

    I decided at the last minute to cancel an interview. I called the HR rep I was dealing with the afternoon of the day before, got no answer so I left her a voice mail. It turns out she was off that day and the next so she never got it. I had an entire day of interviews scheduled with 10 different managers and I technically just didn’t show up. And a mutual friend had originally setup the interview for me. Whoops. next time I would send a confirmation email if I didn’t actually talk to the person.

  100. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

    The position I applied for was open due to the sudden death of the woman who had held it previously. At some point during my interview I said “I’m so happy this opportunity has opened up” heard what I was saying as I said it and tried to backtrack with “not that I’m happy [your friend and coworker] died!” I must have had impressive credentials because they hired me and it has gone really well but if I had never heard back I would not have been surprised.

  101. Van Wilder*

    I was in college and interviewing for a Big 4 accounting firm. This was right after the Enron scandal had caused the end of Anderson, so the SEC was really scrutinizing audit practices, as well as tax shelters. Since this firm had been mentioned in the WSJ, I thought it would appear as a really insightful question if I asked about the article and how this had affected the offerings they bring to clients. Big mistake. The partner got super defensive and the interview was instantly awkward. I apologized but there was no saving it. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

    The ironic thing was that it was a second interview for an internship, meaning no experience needed. I had recently won a case competition this firm sponsored so I was probably a top candidate. Based on my knowledge of campus recruiting, all I had to do was not screw up. But no, I just had to ask my investigative journalist question.

  102. Directionally Challenged*

    I scheduled an interview and the interviewer said she would send me directions to the place by email. She sent these directions that said, “At the second street, turn right. Then turn into the second parking garage.” But didn’t give the names of the streets. Finally, I decided to just park and find it on foot. I had the address, but I couldn’t find the building. It was like 103, and the buildings went from 101 to 105, but I couldn’t find 103.

    Finally I gave up so I skipped the interview and never called. I don’t know why I didn’t call and say I was lost. That would’ve been the logical thing to do. It was several years ago so I can’t remember what my thought process was at the time.

    1. Elsajeni*

      Oh no, I did this too. I was supposed to be going to an office in one of those giant, anonymous office parks with a bunch of identical buildings — I drove around for ages just trying to find an entrance to the place, and then a few more ages trying to figure out which building was Building 3 or whatever, and finally I gave up and went home. And never called.

  103. kate*

    I had a long all-day interview and at the end of it asked me last interviewer “So.. do you think I did ok?” Cringe cringe cringe.

  104. MoinMoin*

    I was asked in an interview (for a non-profit that worked with children in low-income families) what the most stressful situation with children I’ve ever had was, and how I handled it. I started talking about working in a preschool and discovering rather graphic evidence of child abuse. Going into detail about it coupled with the stress of the interview…. I just burst into tears. Messy, long, tears. It was terrible. It was awkward. They felt awful. I felt stupid. I didn’t get the job.

      1. MoinMoin*

        I don’t think they held it against me that such a thing would make me cry but it was still incredibly awkward all around and I was young but really I should have prepared for such a question. I didn’t have to answer with the actual most stressful awful situation ever, or if I decided to still go that route I could have concisely talked about it instead of nervously rambling. That’s not the find of thing where you should just start spilling any and all details as they come to mind.

  105. bentley*

    When I was fresh out of secretarial school, back in the 80’s, my cover letter said not much more than, “I saw your job posting of [title] in [newspaper]. I think I’m perfect for the job and I’d like a chance to prove it.” I actually got a job with that letter (and got a great promotion soon after). The HR lady told me later that my cover letter sounded like a dare and she wanted to see if I could pull it off.

  106. Shouldn't Have Been A Big Deal*

    One time, I applied to an organization. They called and we scheduled an interview. They asked me to fill out an online application before the interview. Some of the questions on the application were a little peculiar and quite reveling about their culture. The more I looked at their website, the more turned off I became.

    I called an cancelled the interview and said I was no longer interested. I expected it to be no big deal. This was several days before the interview when I called.

    But later someone who had inside information, but not an employee of the organization, told me that the company were angry that I cancelled and thought it was unprofessional. I thought it was better to cancel than waste everyone’s time. I wonder if they would’ve thought it would’ve been unprofessional if I went through the whole process, but ultimately declined their offer, or they would’ve considered that to be OK.

      1. Shouldn't Have Been A Big Deal*

        I thought I had done the right thing too, but apparently they were mad about it. Oh well. I haven’t lost any sleep over it. :)

  107. Brian Krueger*

    My favorite one (although it wasn’t me personally) was the interviewee who spilled soup on his tie during a lunch interview (which was meant to be the final interview). OK, spilling soup on your tie isn’t the end of the world. But this guy licked it off…

  108. Sara*

    This isn’t something I did, but the last time I was involved in hiring, we got two cover letters that I will never forget. The first one, the girl anagrammed her name… A is for ‘accomplished’, S is for ‘skillful’ and so on. The second one was an obvious mistake… the applicant attached a letter from his mother telling him that he needed to get a job, and stop borrowing money from his grandfather. Needless to say, neither of them were called for an interview. I did wrestle with myself for a bit on contacting the anagram girl to tell her she wasn’t doing herself any favors, but my boss actually told me I wasn’t allowed to.

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      My name starts with a K, which fortunately precludes me from making the mistake of anagramming my name on a resume or cover letter. I’d have a hard time finding a work-appropriate adjective that started with a K.

  109. Seal*

    I once had a day-long interview for an academic librarian position, which involved meeting with a variety of people and departments and ended with interviewing with the search committee. The day had gone well, and the interview with the search committee had gone well. And then they asked if I had any questions. The question I wanted to ask was “do you have a mentoring program for new librarians?”. What came out of my mouth was “do you offer assistance for new librarians?”, which elicited a muffled gasp from the search committee and terse “you’ll have to discuss that with HR”. Seems they thought I was asking about whether or not they would pay for me to relocate, which is something you NEVER ask at that point in the interview process and certainly do not bring up with a search committee. I quickly backpedaled and clarified what I was trying to ask, but the damage was done. I didn’t get the job because I couldn’t think of the word “mentor”.

  110. MaryMary*

    Not only did I use the “call to schedule an interview/call to follow up on any questions you may have about my resume” line, I did it. Multiple times. I was really excited about one job (it was on the business side of a BREWERY!) and I called once or twice a week for several weeks until I figured out that no one had any questions about my resume.

  111. Sara The Event Planner*

    I was outrageously late for my first post-college interview for an office job. When the manager called to schedule it, he mentioned that the building was a little hard to find and started to give me some directional pointers. Being young and cocky, I basically tuned him out, figuring I could just use my GPS. Of course, I ended up getting lost. About 5 minutes before the scheduled start time, I was on the verge of tears and had no idea where I was. I left the manager a mortified voicemail letting him know that I was lost and running late and I completely understood if he wanted to reschedule. I spent the next half hour driving around aimlessly looking for ANY of the street names in my directions and pulling into 2 different gas stations to ask for help (unsuccessfully). Eventually, the manager called me back, very kindly asked what street I was on and what landmarks I saw, and gave me directions to the office. I rolled in more than 45 minutes late and apologized profusely, but he more or less shrugged it off as no big deal. By some miracle, I got the job and stayed there for several years. That manager ended up being one of my best ever.

  112. oh noes*

    I interviewed for a number of college internships. I was a political science major and womens studies minor. I was interviewing for summer internships at a number of nonprofits. The internships were mainly funded through corporations, and were paid for 12-15 weeks. They were pretty competitive. And I was having great interviews, at some we discussed start dates, had office tours, etc. All of the interviewers asked for a writing sample. In my infinite wisdom, I decided that it would be best for me to use something that really told them a lot about me. So I decided to use a reflection paper from my introduction to womens studies. I sent them a three to five page essay on the Vagina Monologues. I never heard back from a single one of them. And I was stumped.

  113. Sascha*

    Mine isn’t too bad…I applied for a position at a university, didn’t hear anything, and assumed it went into the black hole. I moved on with my life, and then a few months later, I got a call from the hiring manager asking if I was available for a phone interview. I said yes, when would you like to set it up? – thinking she meant let’s have it at another date. No, she meant right then and there, and started asking me questions about my qualifications and why I wanted to work there. I stumbled and stuttered through, I was so thrown off by the surprise of it.

    1. Kate Heightmeyer*

      That happened to me with a cell phone company. Applied for the position of sales rep and wrote it off after I didn’t hear from anyone for a couple months. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from the regional hiring manager who wanted to do a phone interview on the spot. Suffice to say, I did not do well. Relied way too heavily on knowledge I had by being a customer. Barely knew anything about their less popular services. Panicked and lied when asked if I’d been applying widely because I didn’t want to admit that I’d quit job hunting. Made it appear like I knew nothing about the job I applied to when I asked about the requirements (so much time had passed I wasn’t sure if their needs had changed). Many lessons were learned that day.

  114. Wee*

    Had an interview for a job I really wanted. Turned out to be a very hostile interviewer. At one point he left me speechless with his insistence that I didn’t have any customer service skills. I had 10 years customer service experience at that point in my career. And at one point I forgot the question he asked because he had me on the defensive. Ugh. I should have moved on but I was really mad that they would treat me that way (HR was in the room taking notes) and I wanted another chance to set the guy straight (I mean sell myself ha!). Then a friend told me her cousin was the owner of the company and I asked her to put in a good word for me so that I could move forward to the second interview stage. She said no problem and made the call right there in front of me. I really thought I could go in and change this guys mind. A few hours later the HR person called me to tell me I would not be moving forward in the process. I’m so embarrassed now that I went to my friend for help when it obviously wasn’t a good job fit for them or me. Thankfully she’s still a friend and doesn’t hold it against me (if she even knew the whole story).

  115. Another HRPro*

    A few years after college I was interviewing for a position with the hiring manager. We quickly discovered that he had worked there while I attended the university. I then went on to complain about one of the administrators I had difficulty with in my sophomore year but I couldn’t remember his name. It turned out to be the hiring manager!

    Did not get the job.

  116. Mr. Fancypants*

    I’ve pulled a few good ones. Once I was trying to land a sales job with a major wireless carrier, not retail, corporate. I had some friends on the inside so I got the hiring manager’s name, email and business postal address. I sent him a priority FedEx envelope, signature required and tracked with my resume, cover letter and a gift card to a restaurant very near by that he mentioned frequently on LinkedIn. I then made the “assumptive close” in the letter asking him “what day and time would work best for your schedule to discuss the opportunity?” I didn’t even get an email back, wonder why… stalker.

    On another occasion I was working as a freelance web designer and sent two items out to prospects (keep in mind this was the early 90’s so it was the wild west). I sent a mini CD with a video pitch and samples of our work and a single slip of paper in with the CD with a web address to view the same content online. It was VERY forward thinking at the time… Only problem was nobody knew what to do with the mini CD despite the instructions that it would fit in the “lower portion of your CD tray or on the spindle of your laptop CD ROM drive.” Classic case of form over function. I was trying to be so cutting edge that I forgot my audience. My next mailer was a single bookmark in an envelope… It cost pennies and converted around 60%. Hmmm…

  117. New Emma*

    Not really anything I did, but a funny story nonetheless. There was a temp position open at the company that my father worked for and even though he couldn’t hire me directly, the job was mine if I wanted it, I just had to ‘apply’ through the temp agency. (This is during the summer after my first year of college.) Well, turns out I needed to pass a drug test that he didn’t feel the need to tell me about. It was my first drug test ever and the idea of having to hand a cup of my pee to the cute guy at the temp agency was horrifying. When I get out to the car and begin to give my dad hell for not telling me, all he has to say is, “Well, you better have passed.”

    I did, and got the job. But really. That could have ended so badly.

  118. WhiskeyTango*

    I worked for a very small law firm many years ago as the paralegal/receptionist. We also had a legal secretary and two attorneys. The business had grown, so the attorneys decided to hire another paralegal and they posted a very basic job description that did not list the name of the firm or our phone number. It just had the fax number for resumes. Yes, we got many.

    Out of the blue one day, the phone rang and I was somewhat belligerently confronted by a woman who said she had been the second choice candidate the last time we hired for a paralegal and that she wanted a second chance. The last paralegal we’d hired was two years before and it was me, so I asked her to fax in her resume for consideration since we didn’t have those records anymore. She insisted she had interviewed with us six months earlier and wanted to talk to “the main guy” about a second chance. (She couldn’t name him. Since his name was on the door, it shouldn’t have been too hard to find since she’d been able to look up our phone number just based on the job description and the fax number.) So I suggested she say something about having previously interviewed in her cover letter and send it over. She demanded to speak to the main guy again and hung up on me when I said he wasn’t in the office. (That was true, but I doubt he would have taken the call had he been there.)

    I don’t know if this was some kind of foot in the door tactic or not. The whole thing was just weird and wouldn’t have resulted in an interview, much less a job offer. Not to mention, the attorneys didn’t remember a “second choice” candidate from when they’d hired me. But we were all really amused by it.

  119. oldfashionedlovesong*

    As a grad student I was competing with my classmates for summer internships. My classmates, all older and more experienced in the field, were getting snapped up left and right while I was still applying and interviewing late into the spring semester. I was desperate and my self esteem was taking a hell of a beating, which probably explains why I burst into tears during not one, but TWO separate interviews. Obviously I did not get either of those positions. The second one, which happened to be for a position at the campus health centre, actually turned into a counseling session after the dam broke (the interviewer was a mental health counselor). It was very kind of her to suspend the interview and spend some time with me talking about my academic stresses instead of asking me to leave, but it was also incredibly mortifying and I never told anyone what happened.

  120. Ash (the other one!)*

    My biggest mistake was being so desperate to leave my current situation that I jumped at the first offer made, even though I should have seen the writing on the wall (I ignored important clues in the negotiation process) that it would end up being even more awful, in different ways. To be more specific, when I interviewed (4 times, including a trip from DC to NYC) I was under the impression the whole time the title would be “Director.” When they offered me the job they changed that to “Manager” because they claimed I didn’t have enough “years experience” even though the job description didn’t change. They asked me my salary expectations, which I based upon the Director title not the Manager title and we were way off. They then threw back at me that they checked my salary online (I was a federal employee at the time) and thought they could get away with something that was lower than what I had been making (I had finished my doctorate in the interim between applying for that job and my salary being posted and had received quite a significant raise, not to mention all of the federal benefits that I would be losing). We went back and forth and they ended up coming up, but really not enough to have been worth it (again, losing benefits) but again, I was blinded by the new opportunity. I had asked for an office as part of the deal because I know how I work best–and afterall I would be leading my own program–and the executive director sent an email that she “couldn’t believe it was coming down to that” and the COO responded that the trend of the future was open offices, so it shouldn’t matter (note: this office was a mix of cubes occupied by assistant level folks and offices, not an open office space at all). They finally relented and gave me the office, but not the salary and not the title. Once I got there, it was clear there was resentment from a lot of sides — my boss told me when I resigned he couldn’t believe the salary they ended up giving me, and a lot of age bias (I had been promised that my title would change after a year, only to be told I had to have 30 years of experience to be a Director… when I was 29). So, yes, moral of the story — if the organization seems to be disorganized at the offer phase, run!

  121. LibKae*

    I was interviewing for jobs right out of grad school and didn’t know the cardinal rule that you should always do some basic research on where you’re applying (I wanted a job — any job!)

    The first question the interviewer asked? “Tell me what you know about our library.” My response: “Well … I know it’s in Texas”

    I didn’t get the job.

  122. Last Minute Applicant*

    Well, let’s see:

    1. I’ve forgotten to send thank-you notes multiple times after interviews.
    2. I forgot a period at the end of a sentence in a thank-you note.
    3. I didn’t check the formatting of my resume vs. that of my cover letter. (Some of the fonts were off.)
    4. In an interview, I had an interviewer named Ana. She pronounced it AH-na, I pronounced ANN-a.
    5. I’ve waited until the last minute (literally the last 60 seconds before a deadline) before applying.

    1. AVP*

      I don’t mind if fonts differ between cover letters and resumes (half the time the computer systems change them anyway as part of their internal formatting) but what cracks me up is when people copy/paste pieces of different emails and documents into their cover letters and don’t think to change them into a standard font. That cracks me up every time….and it happens with like 30% of applicants so that’s a lot.

      1. CM*

        Ugh, that reminds me of a series of interviews where I kept mispronouncing the company’s name. It was a tiny company and I didn’t know how the name was pronounced until I walked in for the interview and heard them say it. By then I already had the wrong pronunciation in my head, and I kept alternating between the right and wrong pronunciations. (I got an offer anyway, so it was nice that they forgave me for this.)

  123. Sashimi*

    This happened at a former company: someone sent us a live beta fish with a note saying, “Tired of fishing for the right candidate? Hire me.” It was really inconsiderate — our receptionist then had to figure out how to take care of the fish, buy fish food, clean the bowl, etc. The fish was in a glass fishbowl that sat on a Barcelona table, and the first night the cleaning crew picked it up to clean the table. When they set it down, they cracked the fishbowl (thankfully not the table!) and the next morning water was everywhere and the poor fish hardly had any in his bowl.

    We had a company-wide naming contest; the reception area was named after “Donor 1 and Donor 2”, the winning name was “Donor 1 and Donor 2 Reception Area” although Sashimi was a close second.

    I don’t remember what eventually happened to the fish but it was such a bad idea. I felt sorry for the fish.

    1. Kristine*

      Poor fish! I’m glad the office decided to care for him. I shudder to think what happened to some of the other beta fish this careless candidate sent out ;_;

    2. The Bimmer Guy*

      Shudder, indeed. As much as I like fish and other pets, live animals do not make good gifts or business favors…

  124. Anonymouse*

    (Anon just in case I get doxxed.) This immediately came to mind and I could not keep it to myself.

    A colleague I had the displeasure of working with (he definitely had his own agenda, which included taking credit for other people’s work) had an website geared toward prospective employers.

    His background picture: Himself, blown up enough so his head filled more than half the available space, looking off into an undisclosed location just beyond your peripheral vision with what I can only assume was supposed to be an expression of deep thought but which instead came across as maniacally constipated.

    His headline: “Yeah, I do that too.”

    1. Beancounter in Texas*


      Somewhere, out there in internet space, a young woman asked for feedback on her resume. I didn’t have much to contribute, but I thought it interesting that she put her MySpace page URL on it. So I clicked over to see her strictly personal MySpace page, with a tiled wallpaper of a small picture that looked like she was butt naked. I couldn’t tell whether she had clothes on in the picture, because it was too small. I sent a private message to her explaining how unprofessional the picture looked and advised to only include professional items on her MySpace page if she was going to send it to employers. In my head, the tone was pretty terse, but she thanked me for pointing out the picture problem and seemed genuinely grateful for my feedback.

      1. Anonymouse*

        That is a much better outcome than I thought when I first started reading your tale!

        I briefly had a MySpace page but shudder at the thought of sending it to an employer.

  125. AnotherAlison*

    I may have shared this here before, and while it’s definitely a sin, I don’t know if I accept all the blame.

    When I was a senior interviewing for post-college jobs, I attended a related banquet dinner the night before a career fair. It was a chance for some of the students to meet some of the recruiters one on one. That all went well, but I got into a car accident on the way home. I got T-boned and spun around into oncoming traffic and initiated a head on collision and a chain reaction of rear-enders. I was fine, but I had worn my only interview suit to the dinner, and it was ruined by airbag dust. The navy jacket was stained with white dust, and it also smelled nasty — if you haven’t smelled the acrid airbag smell, it’s hard to describe (even after dry cleaning, it didn’t come out). As a 21-year old wife, mom, and college student, this was almost all I owned other than jeans and shorts, excluding some very dated dress clothes from high school (a flowery skort one-piece, perhaps?). So, I wore it. It was extremely embarrassing. I didn’t want to explain it to people, so I mostly just hoped no one noticed, but there was no way they could not have. I’m not sure why I didn’t just skip the jacket. I tend to get pretty rigid about “rules” so I probably thought you MUST wear a suit.

    (I did end up getting a follow-up interview and job offer, which I accepted, from the woman I sat next to at the banquet, pre-accident.)

  126. Nashira*

    Mine was probably bursting into ugly tears in one interview, after being asked why I had been let go from my previous position. My father spent several weeks in a coma and nearly died, and I was let go (at the end of my probation period) partly because I fell apart and did a horrible job after Dad got so sick. The worst part wad one interviewer had been through something similar, where he was the ill parent, and he got teary too.

    Although, it was also pretty bad when interviewers would ask what motivated me to do a good job and I kept answering “Protestant work ethic” because I thought it was pithy. Or pre-apologizing for a minor speech impediment for admin positions requiring answering phones…

  127. Beancounter in Texas*

    A coworker once told me this bomb of an interview story.

    She wasn’t happy with her current job and was frustrated that she hadn’t received any interview requests for a couple of months. Then she did receive one and was super excited about it. On the morning of her interview, she turned off her alarm clock in her sleep and was running a couple of hours late to work. She put on her best outfit, but forgot her suit jacket at home, and then spilled coffee on her lap on the way to work. Being hourly, she was already getting shorted on this paycheck for missing two hours of work and that irritated her (although she owned that it was her own fault). Well, the interview wasn’t until after lunch, so she went home during lunch to change, but nothing else made her feel as confident as the first outfit. She skipped eating lunch so she could leave with time to bear down heavy traffic, get lost and found, etc.

    She’s speeding along the interstate, because she wanted to be there at least 20 minutes early and a car cuts her off. Having had a bad morning, all of her rage came out. She and another woman are having it out, shaking fists and exchanging foul language out of the windows as they go down the road. My coworker speeds off and misses her exit, so she circles back. She finds the location, parks, settles her nerves and walks into the office building.

    While waiting in a large lobby in front of an office with glass doors, she notices the woman with whom she had a road rage incident walk into the lobby and badge herself into the office. GULP. My coworker tries to blend into the wall paper and manages to go unnoticed. She imagines the lady being a future coworker in another department and apologizing to her. She hopes it wasn’t anyone in HR.

    Turns out the lady was her interviewer and hiring manager. My coworker apologized and tried her best to ace the interview, but scratched that one off the list as a big NOPE.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Oh, this is my worst nightmare. I have been fighting a short fuse all my life and will occasionally flip people off near the office & I have a couple minutes sweating that they don’t turn in to my building. (Flipped off someone Sunday when running. . .I was on the left shoulder and I thought he came up behind me and swerved at me from the right lane to be an asshole, so I flipped him off. Turns out there were some cyclists also coming up behind me that I couldn’t see, and he swerved into my lane to avoid them. This is why I need to learn to calm down.)

  128. Not Myself*

    My favorite is not one of mine, so Alison, if you wish to turn this into an article someday and this is hilarious enough to make the cut, I’d prefer it’d be left off.

    My sister, new to New York, was looking for a job. She is an extremely smart and qualified person, but wasn’t finding anything that she thought looked worth her while. She is also a talented practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. One day, she sees an ad for a job for a tall woman who is skilled in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and she decided to apply. They called her in for a demonstration/interview. So, she rides the subway down to the listed office, wearing her gi. Turns out that this job wasn’t for an instructor position or anything, it was an escort service that specialized in women with martial art skills. She goes in, and they ask her to demonstrate on some guy there (pretty sure he didn’t know how to spar or anything like that – he just liked to get beaten up by tall, lovely ladies who know how to kill people with their hands). She turned the job down, but it was all sorts of entertaining.

  129. Nervous Accountant*

    I was a junior in college and I had found an opening in a legal office through my college’s online job center. Well the information was there, so a few hours after emailing my resume and cover letter, I called the office and spoke to the lawyer. He berated me for calling him and hung up on me.

    Once or twice early on, I forgot to attach a resume and freaked out.

    I think that’s been it so far!

  130. Kai*

    Oh! Right after high school I interviewed at a temp agency. I was very professional in the initial interview, I think, until the rep asked me if there was any kind of job I was not comfortable performing. I said I definitely didn’t want to do anything that involved answering the phone. ><

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Ooo, I similarly complained about a past outbound telemarketing job to the interviewers for a new positions: sales support engineer. The job was answering customer calls & helping troubleshoot via phone.

    2. T3k*

      I did something similar with my agency’s rep with “do you want to work with customers?” And I went “no” complete with head shaking and frown. Funny part was, the field they specialized in and I’m in, about 80% of the jobs work with customers. Guess I should have been more specific and said I don’t mind working internally with coworkers (who I can fuss at to a degree).

  131. Chocolate Teapot*

    After my recent job hunting, I found I mixed up several different recruiters, who all sounded the same on the phone and mumbled the name of their company.

    1. Not Karen*

      Once upon a time someone left a message on my phone asking if I was still interested in “the position,” but I couldn’t understand their name, the job title, or the company.

  132. 42*

    Ugh. I’m cringing all over again but here goes.

    I applied for an editorial position and got called in for an interview. Arrived in time, met with HR who then took me to my potential boss. He gave me an editing test; totally expected.

    He also gave me a huge stack of books–I mean HUGE–to use as reference material if needed (picture like 5 or 6 reference books the size of the Chicago Manual of Style). He brings me into a tiny unused office, hands me the papers to be edited, and closes the door. So I get at it.

    I’m realizing about 10 minutes in that I’m pretty unclear as to exactly what parts of which papers actually need editing, so I begin to edit the entire stack. After probably 2 hours he pokes his head in and looks kind of quizzically at me that I’m still in there, and asks how I’m coming along. Fine, I say. He closes the door and leaves.

    Probably another hour after that (I’m just a nervous heap of stress by this time–I’m sure my stomach had begun digesting itself–I find a sheet at the BOTTOM OF THE PILE giving the instructions on what to do with each of the papers I was given. I had already been there for probably close to 4 hours, and NOW I see what I was doing wrong.

    So I pulled out a blank piece of paper, hand wrote a very polite letter to the editorial manager saying essentially that I misunderstood the assignment and royally screwed the pooch on this one, that I should probably consider myself out of the running for this position, thanked him for his time, and left the note on top of book mountain. I managed to quietly sneak out of the building unseen, which was my final wish for that day.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I wonder if it was some sort of game playing–like one of those tests where the last question says “Don’t answer any of the other questions.” But the boss seemed confused by it too, so IDK!

        4 hours stuck in a room doing mystery editing sounds like a nightmare. :(

      2. 42*

        Yeah it was nightmarish. You should have seen my joy when I made it out of the building with no one seeing me.

        The thing that threw me totally off, I’m realizing, is that this a position that performs digital editing. I never edit hard copy. No one edits hard copy anymore in my field. Why did he give me reams of papers to edit with a silly red pen?

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      As a freelance writer/editor who learned the hard way, I thought the moral of the story was going to be that there wasn’t really a job and they just wanted someone to edit the whole stack for free. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across people trying to get free editing services by placing a job ad and then asking candidate #1 to edit pages one through three, candidate #2 to edit pages four through seven, and so on. The candidates think they are doing a short editing test, but the “potential client” is getting a whole report or book edited for free!

  133. Nea*

    I didn’t do this, thank goodness, but I was heavily advised by someone who’d been paid a great deal of money to help me find a job that I should find several CEOs of businesses I’d like to join, assign myself a task for them like “copy edit your website and redesign it” and then send weekly letters actually doing the work for them! Unsolicited! For free!

    This was supposed to “intrigue” someone who could order that I be hired, having shown my sterling qualifications. It struck me as being creepy and pushy in the extreme – not to mention a great deal of time investment when I was already extremely busy and stressed out.

    1. Java Jones*

      I did something kind of like this, but of my own volition which is even worse.

      I picked up a copy of a relatively new magazine, edited it thoroughly, and sent them my edited copy along with a super-cocky cover letter about how they had ton of potential and I could help them achieve it through editing. The magazine did need an editor… but wow, was it not me at that time! I cringe thinking of it and I’ve actually held off on applying for writing/editing jobs for a couple of years hoping that anyone associated with that publication would never come across my (pretty unique) name and remember my mistake. The magazine, of course, eventually got the staff they needed and now the magazine is pretty well-written and still in business, no small feat for small free pubs in our saturated city.

  134. Becky*

    I have two… I don’t know if they’ll sound that bad but I still cringe at the memory.

    First year out of school scrounging for money and hampered by a major phone phobia (email was much less standard at the time.) Family friends giving me all kinds of off the wall leads which I grit my teeth and do my best to follow up with despite the phobia. So one family friend tells me to call this picture agency where he has some connection, they may be able to give me some hours here and there, for maybe $11 an hour, something like that. I know if I think about it too much I will get an anxiety attack, so I just pick up the phone and dial and don’t let myself think. However, when someone picks up I realize I have NO idea what this company does or if they are even hiring! So what comes out of my mouth is basically a garbled version of what the family friend had said to me a few moments previously: “So and so gave me your information, he said maybe you could give me some hours here and there, for $11 an hour or something like that.” Even as I said it I felt a full-body flush hit me it was so naive. They very generously gave me an interview, which I went through and left STILL with no idea what the company did. It’s a field that makes no sense until you have worked in it for a bit, which I have since then. I now recall my comments during the interview – it must have been completely obvious that everything they were saying was flying right over my head. I don’t think I heard back. (I tried to get right with karma at least – they called me out of the blue at current job a few years ago with a rush request – I’m not required to hustle for those since it doesn’t make us any extra $, but for them, I did. They obviously did not remember me for which I was extremely grateful.)

    The second incident occurred after I had been some years at my first full-time job, so I still didn’t have much interviewing experience. I sort-of knew you are supposed to take a personal day for interviews, but there were so few allowed personal days that it really seemed impossible to me to use one for this. Plus it was a second interview so that would have been two days out of my measly allotment. Although we had an appointment together that afternoon, my boss was going to be out for most of the day I scheduled the interview, so I thought I could get away with being away for a couple of hours, and my coworker agreed to cover for me. Slip out, slip in, no one the wiser, was the plan.

    Well, the interview turned out to be one of the most upsetting experiences of my life. It was with the owner, and it was 25 solid minutes of her cussing me out. Not an exaggeration. Every other word started with F or S. After telling me I was obviously total s— at my current job she went on to trash-talk several specific members of her staff, who were in earshot. I was totally blindsided by her behavior. I never heard back either — who knows, maybe I’ll get a call back after 10 years. I ended up sobbing for the rest of the afternoon in Starbucks.

    I totally missed the appointment with my boss. My poor coworker fibbed for me and said I’d gone home sick. Boss then called my home on a fact-finding mission. My roommate (who knew about the interview) said I was sick upstairs, then backtracked saying I was out, then again said I was sick, eventually coming out with “Actually yeah she’s not here – for a minute I thought it was her job calling.”

    My boss said, “Actually, it is her job calling.”

    What a tangled web. Never again.

  135. CatchMeIfYouCan*

    I interviewed at a company that I really wanted to work at — nicely dressed with heels. Two men interviewed me for some time and everything seemed to be going very good. After about an hour, they brought the interview to a close and I uncrossed my legs and tried to stand up. Unfortunately, one of my legs was fast asleep. My ankle gave way and I was only kept from falling because they caught me. Imagine nervous laughter from everyone. I was determined to stand up so planted my foot firmly on the ground — made it about 10 seconds before I stumbled again. They guided me out of the office and I could just feel their eyes watching me walk down the hallway and placing bets to see if I would actually be able to walk out successfully. Didn’t get that job but lesson learned: there’s a right way and definitely a wrong way to sit in a long interview.

  136. Pickles*

    Blurted out to my interviewer how happy I was she hadn’t spontaneously combusted….during the introduction phase. To her credit, she was reassuring and completed the interview in a professional manner. Nor did she burst into flames. In my defense, first real interview ever. Did not get the internship. Shocking, I know.

  137. T3k*

    I’d been unemployed and looking for my first job out of college for almost a year and I have a sleep disorder where, if I don’t have a set schedule, the time I go to bed shifts every 2 hours (for example, I got to bed at midnight, the next day I don’t go to bed until 2am, then 4am, etc). As you can imagine, this meant some days I sleep all day and didn’t get up until the evening. One such day, I saw this new job posting for a small tech company in the area and I applied to it (probably was around 7am), not expecting to hear anything. Around 10am, when I’m dead tired and about to go to bed, I get a call from that company. I remember at one point the guy commented that I didn’t sound enthused about it (I was, actually) but sleep deprived me didn’t think to mention that I had actually been up all night and was really tired. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

    1. Curious*

      Is this actually a disorder? Because I’ve always been like that, ever since I was a kid – it drove my parents barmy – only for me, it’s at least three hours, and even scheduling doesn’t work – I literally CANNOT sleep until about three hours after the time I went to bed the previous night. What’s it called? I feel like I should do some research.

      1. Claire (Scotland)*

        It sounds like a form of circadian rhythm sleep disorder. There’s a few versions of this, but this sounds rather like Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, where the circadian rhythm is longer than 24 hours so you are generally “out of phase” with the typical 24 hour schedule.

        1. Claire (Scotland)*

          Usual disclaimers apply, I am not a doctor etc! But one of my friends has this, and so it sounds very familiar.

  138. Mockingjay*

    I have two.

    1. During college, I interviewed for a summer clerk position on the local military base. When I signed in at the Visitor’s Office, the staff asked me if I needed a map. I blithely refused. “Oh no, the Lieutenant gave me directions when we set up the interview.” Forty-five minutes later, I am back at the Visitor’s Office sheepishly requesting the map. Despite being late, I got the job. I presumed all was forgotten.

    Imagine my chagrin one day, when the Lieutenant casually asked, “so why did you show up late to the interview?” Beet red, I ‘fessed up to my overconfidence and the lesson learned. Since then, if I don’t know the location of an interview, I drive out the day before just to be sure.

    2. I bought a new suit for an interview, when I was re-entering the workforce (After years of mom jeans, my work wardrobe was rather depleted. In fact, many of my 80’s dresses (with Dynasty shoulder pads) had ended up in my girls’ dress-up box.)

    The night before, I pull the suit out to cut the tags off and get it ready. I was horrified to see the big, black magnetic security tag still attached to the skirt. Apparently the RFID chip (or whatever is inside them) was broken, so it didn’t bleep when I left the store. I can’t remove it myself because it has a dye pack.

    This is at 7:45 at night; the department store closes at 8. I call the store and beg for someone to wait there, throw the kids and the suit into the car, and take off for the store. The manager met me out front and took the skirt inside to remove the tag. All ended well; I got the job.

      1. W.*

        Yes a good guy- but to be fair it was the store’s fault in the first place. I’ve had online clothing deliveries with the security tag still attached (how?/why?) very frustrating and also poor service and added stress – especially in this case.

  139. Beancounter in Texas*

    My brother got away with this, but I don’t recommend it as a job tactic.

    He interviewed with a famous cereal manufacturer right out of college and accepted a job offer without discussing specific compensation. When my father asked him how much they were going to pay him, he said he didn’t know. When asked for the salary level he was seeking during the interview, he answered, “Pay me what you think is fair and after I’ve been working for you for a few months, you can adjust it to what you really think I’m worth.”

    He’s been with them for just over seven years.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        Y’know, I do not know. :-) I guess it’s good enough to keep him, but he’s one of those frugal people that live on 50% of their income, take on little debt, pay off mortgages in triple payments, and drive cars into the ground. He is currently driving a 1996 Ford F250 with a diesel engine that has more 325,000 miles on it. It helps that he’s a mechanic hobbyist, so he knows how to care for the engine well and changes his own oil.

  140. Anon for this*

    My biggest job hunting mistake was listening to a friend who had and still has no idea how to job hunt. I won’t go into too many details but I stopped listening to her when she told me to take a line at the end of my cover letter out that said something about hoping to talk about the position in more detail. Her reasoning was something like “once you have an interview, they don’t care about the position details or what you have to offer. They are just looking to see if they get along with you and will enjoy working with you at that point. Whoever they get along with best is who they will hire.” Then she told me not to bother focusing on questions they might ask but on appearing personable and someone they can hang out with.

  141. Ann O'Nemity*

    Once I snuck out of an interview without saying anything. It was for a telemarketing job and I was asked to complete a long, boring computer test. No one was in the room with me, and there was an exit door right there. I kept looking at the door longingly, and eventually made a run for it. I never called to apologize or explain, and they never called me back.

    During the same job search – but at a different company – I told the hiring manager that I was leaving my current position because my boss was a drunk and didn’t do any actual work.

    1. Stephanie*

      Oh, I went to the bathroom and never came back during an MLM pitch. I think it was for encyclopedias or something? Halfway through the pitch, I’m thinking “Ok, this sounds like a pyramid scheme…time to leave.”

  142. Windchime*

    The only one I can think of is that I once applied to a job at the local City government. The job ad mentioned Spanish and I had taken a couple of years in high school and had used it in a VERY limited fashion in a previous job, so I applied. I made it through the first screen and then they took us to a room where we had a written test in Spanish. I fled when the interviewer left the room for a moment. The test was way, way above my comprehension level.

    1. Jesse*

      Oh man — I have a coworker now who listed Spanish fluency on her resume, and she is IN NO WAY FLUENT. It’s not critical for the job, but it sure would have been nice.

  143. VictoriaHR*

    Realized after I left the interview that my fly was down (I’m female). All I can do is hope that the poofy blouse covered it. Didn’t get that job.

    Was asked whose opinion I respect the most and I answered “my husband, because sometimes when I’m upset I ask him if I should be offended or not and he tells me.” Derp. I was caught off guard with the question. Got that job though.

  144. Squeegee Beckenheim*

    I once spelled MY OWN name wrong. I have a long name and a sticky keyboard and I didn’t notice I’d left out a letter until after I sent the email.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I have (not while job searching, luckily) misspelled my own first name several times.

      It’s 5 letters long, very common, and I have no excuse except I was typing really fast and not proofreading.

    2. lowercase holly*

      my username for the application acct at a university is currently my misspelled name. there is no way to edit it :-/ i just hope the hiring managers can’t see the usernames when the resumes and cover letters are forwarded from the system. if so, i guess i’ll just tell them i didn’t want my username searchable by anyone else so i did that on purpose.

  145. some1*

    I was received a job offer, but I was waiting to hear back from a handful of other places where I had interviewed. So I created an email with wording I was really proud of, saying that I’d received an offer, but wanted to make sure I was out of consideration before accepting. I forgot to change the name of the hiring manager and the company in one of the emails. D’oh!

  146. Esteban F*

    In college back in around 2007 I interviewed for a part-time software development position that paid around $30/hour. It was over double what I was making at the time. I thought I had plenty of experience and that I had nailed the interview until the subject of pay came up. I naively and desperately expressed that I would be happy to take far less pay until I made myself valuable enough to deserve the higher advertised wage. I didn’t get the job. I still kick myself in the shins for that one.

  147. Elizabeth West*

    I had applied for a dream job I really really reeeeeeeeeally wanted, in the city police department. It bypassed the rotating-shift front desk job, where most staff applicants started. I had loads of quals and even a degree in criminology, so I thought I was a shoe-in. I called up one of my former crim instructors who was retired from the department and got loads of tips from him about interviewing (including what to wear, what questions they were likely to ask, and how to answer them), painstakingly filled out the application, and submitted it. The application instructions were VERY SPECIFIC about putting your Social Security number on your resume or it would not be accepted.

    I forgot to put it on my resume.

    While the application period was still open, I realized this and re-uploaded the file. Let me be clear; I re-uploaded the one without the SS#. Again.

    Needless to say, I never got called in. I really like the job I have now (and it pays more!) but I am still kicking myself for that one.

  148. Front Desk Lady*

    This is horrible beyond words…I had arrived at Potential Job for my interview. As I was waiting in the reception area I noticed a couple of employees clowning around. Adult men attempting ballet kind of clowning around. Just being silly. Well I was off my meds (bad idea on my part) so instead of seeing people joking around, I interpreted it as two guys being wild & putting everyone in danger. Off-her-meds me then stomped out of the building and went home. I was furious. Later that day I left a voice mail for the person who I was supposed to have interviewed with…a very rude and probably crazy sounding voice mail. Have I mentioned I was off my meds? I got back on them right after that, returned to the land of normal people, and got a great job.

    Even though I know what caused me to act that way, I’m still mortified.

  149. Lizzie*

    18-year-old me, fresh out of high school by a grand total of a month, cried and begged for a job. Yes, really.

    I applied to work at an animal shelter, essentially cleaning kennels and mopping floors. I didn’t really want the job, but my parents decided I’d have rent due without giving me very much notice, and I was getting desperate. The interviewer asked me if I’d be able to put animals down. I replied with a very honest “not at this time” and she told me she wouldn’t even be able to give me an offer. I started weeping and begging her to give me a chance.

    In the end she did hire me, but she fired me later for not wanting to move up to being a euthanasia tech.

    I am still embarrassed about all of this.

    1. Spooky*

      Never be embarrassed for not wanting to kill animals! I want to give 18-year-old you a hug — plenty of people (maybe even most people, myself among them) would never be able to do that.

      1. Lizzie*

        I am more embarrassed that I definitely sobbed and begged for a job I knew I didn’t really want to do and then proceeded to prove to her exactly why I should *not* have been hired to do it than anything, haha. Way to go, 18-year-old Lizzie.

    2. DMented Kitty*

      I don’t blame you, I’d be all sorts of messed up if ever I euthanized animals on a regular basis. I just can’t kill an animal that’s been surrendered because it couldn’t find a family or the pound is full. I’d much rather be a vet having to euthanize pets because they’re never going to have a good quality of life (e.g. disease) — at least I know they’ve lived their lives having experienced some sort of love and a family.

  150. Kristen*

    I had a candidate recently apply for a job that would require driving one of our company vehicles on a daily basis so a clean driving record is imperative. They was asked several times during the phone interview and in person interview about their driving record and we were assured that it was great and wouldn’t be a problem. So upon extending a job offer, it is contingent on passing a drug screen and providing a copy of their driving record. They went to the drug screen and then hand delivered a driving record with 11 points on it! 8 of which had been gotten in the last 60 days!

  151. Business Cat*

    Oh boy. I applied to a faith-based university for an administrative position and on the application it asked me to list a few weaknesses. Thinking (for whatever reason) it would make me seem more religious and therefore desirable, I listed “very tenderhearted” as one of them. I regretted it the moment I hit send.

  152. PB*

    I interviewed for a MLM, not realizing it was an MLM until the interview. They liked me and asked me to come in for the day and do a job shadow, they wanted it to be Thursday, which was the next day. Knowing full well I didn’t want to go further, but also being 21 and naive, wanting to avoid direct confrontation I agreed. It was very clear that afternoon that they wanted me back at 8am, Thursday morning, tomorrow. I skipped it, didn’t get a phone call and just assumed they got the hint. Until Wednesday evening of the following week, when they called to confirm that they’d see me at 8am the next morning. I never showed, they never called, I still remember it as such a stretch on their behalf and it’s a little sad.

    Two years later, my sister interviews with a very similar setup. I didn’t know any of this until after it had all happened otherwise I would have warned her. She interviews and shows up at the all day interview. We lived on the west side of our big metro area. They have her drive to their east side of big city office, nearly an hours drive. Park there and ride with someone else. She decided this wasn’t the position for her, and at lunch politely tells the person that this just isn’t the job she thought and she is no longer interested. But she’ll gladly finish the day since she was committed to doing so not to mention her car is an hour away since she was relying on this person to drive her back to the east side office. The lady then leaves the restaurant while she was in the bathroom, I don’t think the meal was even finished, at least she paid the bill prior to bolting. My sister had to call a friend to pick her up and drive her the hours drive to get her car back. It was a mess.

    1. De Minimis*

      I had one like that, I decided that morning that it probably wasn’t legit so I just told them I had to go get something out of my car and took off.

  153. Brian*

    A long time ago I interviewed at a very progressive regional foundation that supported non-profits serving women. It was the only woman-centeric foundation in the area – a very conservative, bible belt type of metro region consisting of both urban and rural counties in the south. The foundation was very well known for having kick-ass feminists at every level of the organization, and I wanted to work there SO badly.

    During the first five minutes I proudly discussed some volunteering i did in two counties named “Kaufman” and “Hunt”. Only I didn’t say “Kaufman” and “Hunt”. I said “Hoffman” and “$%@#”.

    I literally wanted to die.

  154. msbadbar*

    This was in high school over 20 years ago but I’m still embarrassed by it. I was 16 and working at Wendy’s, and I had had enough of cleaning the disgusting Frosty machine.

    I applied for a cashier job at a cute coffee and gifts place. I really wanted to work there. The owner interviewed me, and I wanted to compliment her on her nice shop and emphasize how much I wanted to work there. What came out was (ugh) “Working at a burger place is ok for some people, but I want to work someplace special.” So. Horrible. I didn’t get the job, unsurprisingly.

  155. HRG*

    I once showed up to an interview super overdressed. This was for a part time job at Hallmark so it’s not like people were wearing suits or anything, but I was always told you should dress up for interviews, even if you can wear jeans at the job. However, on this particular occasion I wore something that could be described as almost cocktail party level, including a pair of four inch heels. I was feeling pretty confident until the woman interviewing me said “WOW… you look… nice.” I was so embarrassed that I bombed the interview.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I remember my high school business teacher telling us that we should always wear a suit to interviews, no matter what. Someone asked, “Even for a part-time job at McDonalds?” And the answer was a very cool and snooty, “Of course. You always want to look professional.”

      Ten years later, I interview for a job at a start-up in a suit and the first question from the hiring manager in jeans and hoodie is, “How do you think you’d fit in with our culture?”

        1. Artemesia*

          A relative just got a very well paid job in the software development industry and interviewed in a shirt and slacks — which he claims was a notch above the day to day wear on the job.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Ugh, this was my mom’s advice. Other than during high school, it’s never been inappropriate for me to be in a suit, so I guess it hasn’t burned me too badly. But, I’m curious if there was actually a time in the 70s when it was appropriate for people to show up at fast food interviews, construction labor interviews, or factory worker interviews in suits.

        1. Stargazer*

          My father once interviewed for a pharmacy job (behind the counter) in the 70s as a teenager wearing his friend’s sister’s pink polo shirt. He got the job.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I’ve definitely received that kind of advice before and it’s crazy. Even a reporter wearing a suit for a job interview in a newsroom looks overdressed (though not necessarily in a bad way).

      3. Anna*

        I don’t know. I interviewed at one start up and didn’t get it, but they passed my name on to another start up and the only reason I didn’t get that was because I was looking for full time and they could only offer part time. I wore a suit to both interviews.

  156. TyB*

    For my first job out of college I received a verbal unofficial offer that I accepted. The HR guy said the official offer would come in a few days. So I quit my part time school job and moved from the east coast to the west coast right away. They didn’t get me the official offer for over a month. Luckily I had family I was staying with (longer then the few days I asked to stay while I found an apartment) but it cost a lot to board my dog and store my stuff while I waited. Always wait for an offer to be written down and official before you do ANYTHING!

  157. kdizzle*

    I showed up to the building I was interviewing at and couldn’t open the door. Womp womp. It was an old historical building from the 1800’s and no matter how I tried to turn the knob, it just wasn’t budging. Finally, a receptionist comes and opens the door for me and explains that that knob was only decorative, and points out the very obvious functional handle. I had a huge brace on my leg from knee surgery, so I just pretended like I was overcome with stuff I was holding while trying to open the door.

    I got offered that job.

  158. Suz*

    When I was in college I worked in the veterinary college doing research on pigs. After graduation I interviewed for a job in the lab at an oil refinery. The hiring manager told me a lot of people have trouble working around the odors in the lab and asked if this would be a problem for me. I told him it couldn’t be any worse than smelling pig shit all day.

  159. Big Tom*

    This isn’t my story and it isn’t really a sin, but it’s one of my favorites:
    In college a friend was looking for a part-time job and had an interview at a fast food place. His only transportation was a bike and on the way there (he was already running late, I believe) he was hit by a car. He took off from the scene because he needed the job so bad, and pretty much dragged his bike the rest of the way there because it wasn’t rideable anymore. He walked into the interview all dirty and scuffed, and after he admitted to the interviewer what had happened the interviewer spent the rest of the time yelling at him for not calling the police or getting insurance information or going to the hospital. (He was fine, of course, or it wouldn’t be a very good story)

    1. DMented Kitty*

      That actually kind of shows that the employer values their [potential] employee’s safety more than anything else. Maybe they shouldn’t have yelled as much, but hey, I’d actually give the company plus points for that.

  160. TCO*

    Remembered another one. In college, there was a competitive summer internship program that funded positions at several nonprofits. I was really eager to apply and got very excited the day the positions were posted. So excited, in fact, that I somehow overlooked the application instructions. Rather than submitting my resume and cover letter through the application system, I e-mailed one of the hiring managers directly with a longish explanation about how excited I was about the position. I think I even said something like, “I apologize if this is too long, but this job is just such a perfect fit.”

    Of course, she responded with a two-sentence e-mail pointing me towards the actual application process. I didn’t get an interview, maybe due to my e-mail and maybe not.

  161. TheExchequer*

    The time I told a tax office my /real/ 5 year plan which, at that point, involved moving to a different country into an entirely different vocation.

    Gee, it’s such a surprise they didn’t hire me. I was such a catch.

    1. De Minimis*

      Oh i did that once, I told them I wanted to be in graduate school in 5 years. This was for a job at a video store.

      I think I had a couple of really early interviews where I said “No,” when asked if I had any questions. I don’t know why I didn’t at least get some kind of book on how to interview for jobs when I was in college.

  162. lowercase holly*

    i’ve definitely complained about former bosses in interviews because sometimes people ask “what did you think of your previous boss” and i am pretty literal. i had no idea what they were really asking. now i know better.

      1. Anna*

        That you don’t badmouth people; that you can disagree with civility; that you don’t hold grudges; and that you don’t blame others for your own problems. A polite explanation of how thankful you are for past experiences but have outgrown the initial role is probably always a good answer…

  163. InterviewFreeZone*

    Had an interview with a really prestigious company for a position that paid easily double what I was making at the time. They’re a very conservative environment so I was convinced I needed to wear pantyhose and heels. Unfortunately it was August and unfortunately I was unable to take time off so I had to sneak around to attend the interview. It’s so far on the west side of the city that I had to really hustle to get there on time from the train. (Cab didn’t make sense because of time of day.) I made it there with about 5 mins to spare and thought I was home free, except the building itself is massive and the walk from the front desk to the elevator bank was definitely like a quarter mile (at least in my head). I also then had to take two sets of elevators to reach my destination.

    After reaching the first set of elevators, I made a grave discovery. My shoes were literally full of blood. The rubbing from the pantyhose and brand new heels was a nightmare. If that weren’t bad enough, I felt like I was sweating significantly more than I had been outside. Later I realized that the polyester lining of my suit jacket probably didn’t do me any favors. Finally I got off on the 324038403834038th floor (what a view!) and quickly realized that the elevator lobby on that floor was empty and both glass doors to the workspace were locked. I started sweating more. Finally someone came out and I asked them what to do. They looked at me like I had 3 heads. Apparently there was a tiny stool with a phone tucked in the corner with a phone book that I could use to look up my party’s number. So I made my way over there and called.

    First question of the interview was: all the other candidates for this job are straight out of college or have less than 2 years experience…what are you doing here?

    Sigh. Lessons learned: no pantyhose in August, give yourself double time to arrive, take the day off, and polyester lining in 90 degree heat while sweating is a no-go.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      You have me thinking of a quote from Romy and Michele—“I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood.”

  164. Mrs Lannister*

    I was a few months away from graduating college and landed my very first interview. I was so excited to interview it didn’t seem odd to me that the interview was on Easter. I also didn’t do anything like research the company I was interviewing with (a large financial services firm). At the end of the interview I was offered the job, and signed the acceptance letter on the spot without doing important things like discuss salary or job duties. I was young and didn’t realize it was okay to look over an offer before accepting, or not accept at all! It was only afterwards when I was asked to provide contact information for everyone I know that I realized the company was a MLM. Instead of calling them back and declining the job, I went radio silent on them and didn’t return any phone calls. The kicker is that 5 years or so later, I get a voicemail from the guy who interviewed me which basically said that working together didn’t work out, but if I had any referrals to please give him a call back!

  165. feeling foolish*

    I am not using my normal name for this, because I feel very foolish regarding job-search behavior in 2011 and 2012, not so long ago. Not a disclaimer, but some context: I had been extraordinarily lucky in my previous job search efforts in that I found work via networking, or by carefully targeting one or two positions.

    During this job search, I felt very much out of my element because the industry I was in vanished and I had to start all over. At my age (mid to late 40s), I knew I was too old to be entry level, and I didn’t want to be entry level. I had targeted a very specific field that I thought would be a good match, even though I was missing something that I thought was minor. I felt I had excellent transferable skills and was becoming very frustrated that online tracking systems and HR people obviously could not see how awesome I was. Because I had not yet discovered all you wonderful people, I did three things pretty regularly:

    1. Stated in my cover letter I would follow up if I had not heard in x number of days.
    2. I did, in fact, call. I left voice messages that were never returned. In my defense, these two pieces were suggested to me by the outplacement person my previous company provided.
    3. I grew increasingly frustrated with online tracking systems and dug around for hiring manager names and others that I thought could influence hiring decisions and sent my materials direct. I felt if I could get my materials to them, they would see how awesome I was. Sigh.

    When these alone did not work, I started creating tables where I broke down each piece of the job description and did a write-up of my applicable skills and experience. I SENT this to people! Sigh again.

    After about a year of not even getting an interview, I took an honest look at my skills and experience versus job requirements and came to the conclusion that the “minor” piece I was missing must have been weighted pretty heavily. I changed my focus and things started happening. Because I was feeling less frustrated and desperate, I stopped doing the three items above because my gut told me they were wrong and I’d always been super uncomfortable doing them.

    Final note: The table that compared the job description with my skills and experience turned out to be a very good internal assessment tool and was super helpful for prepping for interviews. It just never left the safety of my own computer again. ;)

    1. Business Cat*

      I think your table sounds great for personal reasons as well! I might just try that when I job hunt again in the future.

    2. Last Minute Applicant*

      I’m guessing you didn’t get interviewed because so many other applicants *did* have that “minor piece.”

  166. Golden Yeti*

    I had quite the blonde moment on one application. The requirement listed was B.Eng.

    For whatever reason, my brain thought “Bachelor in English” (instead of Engineering). I submitted the application and realized my mistake hours later.

    I also may have spent the majority of an interview talking about how great my spouse is (he had just returned from a very long trip and we were newlyweds). I didn’t get a second interview request.

    1. Jader*

      I am definitely guilty of talking about my Husband in interviews. I couldn’t help it, he’s the bees knees!

  167. Isabel*

    I am a freelance writer. I applied for a advice-column writing gig by sending an email to the publication’s editor. Along with relevant clips and details about my writing experience, I pointed out that my previous work, as a counselor/coach, made me all the more qualified to give advice. I felt confident that the publication would be interested.

    So confident, in fact, that when a week went by without any word from the editor, I checked my email to make sure a response from her hadn’t somehow landed in my spam folder or been accidentally deleted. I typed her first name into the Gmail search box and saw that I had sent her two emails. Hmmm, two?

    About an hour after I sent that confident cover letter, I also sent her an email meant for a friend with the same first name. It read:
    “Are you free for for a drink later? My love life, finances and hair are all in a state of disaster. I could really use a some wine.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Is there any chance she could have also thought you intended to send the second one to her? Or was it clear that it was misdirected? (It’s hilarious either way, but it’s even more funny if she might have thought that you were actually inviting her, a stranger who you wanted work from, out for a drink to discuss the various disasters in your life after the earlier email.)

      1. Isabel*

        There were some additional details that made it clear the email was meant for someone else. It was years ago and I can’t remember exactly what else was in there (though the terrible part above is a very clear and permanent memory). Just something like, “Did you find out the date of that concert?”

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Lol, that’s mortifying. I do that with texts. 99% of my texts go to my husband, so I often pick up my phone and start typing away without looking at WHO I’m sending it to. So far, nothing bad has gone to coworkers (I’ve caught them!), but I have sent some emails of frustration ABOUT our son TO our son.

    3. W.*

      I always fear I’ve sent off the application before I’m ready – but that is worse… Lol but really you could give the advice because you experienced life :)

    4. Isabel*

      I almost didn’t post this story. I haven’t worked in an office in over a decade and freelance-writer-land rarely resembles the workdays described on this site. But I cannot get enough of AAM. Corporate workplace quandaries are my telenovela!

    5. The IT Manager*

      It’s doubly funny because it was a job writing an advice column, and that second email makes it seem like you’re someone who would be writing in for advice and not writing the advice.

  168. Spooky*

    This one is my mom’s favorite from when I was fresh out of grad school, living at home and interviewing.

    It was for some position in the legal dept of a university. It was an interview with a committee of maybe five or six people. The lead interviewer asked how I organized my files on my computer at home. I explained my (actually very detailed) system of broad categories subdivided down chronologically by year, then month. She replied with, “No, how do you ORGANIZE your folders on your computer?” I explained again, trying to use different language. She asked a third time, clearly frustrated, “NO. How do you ORGANIZE the FILES AND FOLDERS on your laptop at home?!” I replied, with far more snark than I should have, “Well, I’m a big fan of the alphabet.”

    I still have no idea what she was going for. I consider it a bullet dodged.

    1. Keep Summer Safe*

      Seems oddly trivial, but maybe she was looking for an answer like “right-click on the desktop, then choose ‘organize’ from the pop up menu”? Just a guess. But it sounds like maybe you gave her an answer that was way smarter than she expected.

  169. Edwina Scissorhands*

    I went to layout my clothing the night before an interview, and quickly realised that I couldn’t find my smart trousers that I saved for interviews. Turns out that I’d accidently left them behind in my old wardrobe when I’d moved house a few months previously. Didn’t even realise. My interview was at 10am the next day, at a location 2.5 hours away. The shops were closed where I live. So I took an extra-early train in the morning (I don’t have a car) and, literally an hour before I was due to interview, rushed into the first shop to buy some trousers.

    It gets worse. I’m really short, with skinny legs but wide hips, so kids’ clothing is too tight but adult sizing drowns me to the point that I look ridiculous. I couldn’t find short enough trousers even when wearing my interview heels (in retrospect, I would have if I’d had more time), so I purchased scissors and a cheap sewing kit, then sat in the shopping mall hemming the trousers so that they didn’t trail on the ground. Rushed job was an understatement.

    I then had to change into them and essentially ran to the interview location so that I got there on time (too much traffic for taxis). I made it, barely, but my face was really red and felt like it was burning throughout the interview. I was also really jitterly and and stumbling over a lot of my words – the adrenaline had left me really twitchy and shaky.

    It wasn’t a good interview and I didn’t get the role. To make matters worse, I glanced down at my feet as I left and saw that half the “hemming” had come undone and the fabric was dragging on the floor, steadily unravelling where I’d cut off the bottoms. Lesson learned: always double check for suitable interview clothing when applying for a role. Don’t wait for an interview. Lesson 2: tailoring is not the career for me.

  170. Three Thousand*

    I had an entry-level interview at a bank and went on and on about a bank teller job I had years before that I *absolutely hated.* I went on and on about how terrible that job was. It was the only banking-related job I had ever had, so I figured I needed to talk about it. The interviewer looked at me strangely and politely moved on to the next question. I guess for some reason she thought I wasn’t cut out for banking, because I didn’t get the job.

  171. Recruit-O-Rama*

    Some of my favorite candidate interview responses:

    1. I often ask candidates in the beginning of a phone screen what their strengths are as an employee. It’s a softball question asked specifically to get them warmed up and comfortable with me over the phone (I screen a LOT of entry level and skilled labor candidates) and at least once a week someone tells me how much they can lift because that’s what they think I mean by “strength”- “at least 50 ponds” is the most popular answer.

    2. I often ask candidates what kind of company culture or work environment are they the most productive and happy. Every so often someone will tell me that they can work with all kinds of cultures; African American, Hispanic, Middle eastern, etc.. This one always amuses me to no end because it is not even close to what I am looking for.

    3. I usually ask candidates what they liked the most about their most recent job. I had a young man on the phone who was just out of the Army so I asked him what he liked the most about about being in the military and he said that he likes to blow stuff up

    4. I was conducting a phone screen with a candidate when I suddenly heard the unmistakable sounds of a restroom break…they were using the restroom (number 2!) while on a phone screen!!! They flushed AND washed their hands without missing a beat.

    5. A candidate once talked about herself in the third person for the entire phone screen. As in “Bob has excellent interpersonal skills”

    6. Once while screening resumes for an Assistant Controller, I came across a candidate’s resume with the header “I have the Skillz to pay the Billz”

    These are just off the top of my head….

  172. Anonymous This Once*

    Heh. I have an interview horror story that to this day makes me shudder when I pass the Capitol.

    In Spring 1998, I hated the job I had, so I’d started looking for something new. I was very excited to get a call to interview on the Hill with the office of a representative. I scheduled the interview for a Thursday at 3, so I knew I’d have to leave work a bit early to get there.

    The day of the interview, I wore a favorite silk blouse, a wool skirt, heels, and stockings (which I loathe). I planned to leave my office at 2:00 to get the train to my 3:00 interview. Well, wouldn’t you know it, at 1:30 I tore my stockings! Well, I thought, no problem, I’ll just stop at the department store by the train station, purchase new stockings, and grab a cab to the Hill.

    So, I ran into the store, and checked out the stocking selection. Of course, there was nothing in the color I wanted in my size, so I bought one pair that wasn’t the right color, and one pair that was a size or two too big, ran outside, and took a cab to the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill. I got through security, went into the
    bathroom, and went into a stall to change.

    I pulled up the wrong-color stockings, and, of course, punched a hole in them that ran all the way to my toes. Well, no problem, that’s why I bought the second pair, which were too big. I pulled them up, only punching a small hole in the top, and was dismayed to discover that, no matter what I did, the crotch would not go past my knees (apparently
    they were, ahem, irregular). Of course, my skirt was just a hair too short and a lot too itchy to get by without hose, so I knew I’d have to make do. I remember thinking, “Oh, well, it’s an interview, so I’ll be sitting. What could possibly happen?” Famous last words!

    It was 2:55 by this point, so I pulled myself together and hustled down the hall to the office with my knees bound together by my stockings, arriving at 2:57 for my 3:00 interview. I chatted with the staff, and perched in a chair waiting for the chief of staff. He emerged from his office, shook my hand, and said:

    “Come on, Anonymous This Once, let’s go for a walk.”

    Imagine my horror! If he had been female, I probably would have come clean right then.

    Turns out he wanted chocolate milk from the cafeteria with which to take his pills, but the first and second House cafeterias where we stopped didn’t have chocolate milk, so we walked for 20 minutes, with him interviewing me while we walked. Not only was I bound by the knees and could only mince, but I had to hitch up my hose — which by this point were rolling down and taking my underwear with them — every step or two. Each hitch invariably happened as he was asking me a question. I’m SURE he wondered why I wasn’t all there, since I said, “Huh?” after every single question.

    So, we finally reached the blasted THIRD cafeteria and he got his blasted chocolate milk, after which we sat down at a table to finish the interview. He said, “So, Anonymous This Once, I have 15 other resumes on my desk for this position. Why should I hire you other those other 14 people?” It was all I could do, and took every ounce of restraint I had, not to hiss bitterly,

    “Because you’ve made me hike for 20 minutes in these stupid, twisted, too-short stockings!”

    I didn’t get the job.

    The moral of the story: ALWAYS carry an extra pair of stockings if you wear them, or, better yet, WEAR PANTS!! I believe I’ve worn a pant ensemble to every interview I’ve had since then.

    1. Artemesia*

      ‘How bad could it be’ or ‘How could it possibly go wrong’ are always preludes in my life to disaster.

    2. Violetta*

      Oh man. This makes me think of a stocking-related mishap I had when I interviewed for my current job. (Warning: Gross.) I had some wounds and scrapes on my legs from a fall at the time. I covered them in those stick-on bandages and then put on my most opaque tights to wear with a skirt, as I didn’t have any appropriate pants to wear. But these stupid tights kept rolling down and taking the bandages with them. So right before my interview, I decided it would be best to take off the bandages in the bathroom and toss them. During the interview I realized the tights were fusing with my wounds and kept plucking at them. I’m sure that came off as real professional.

    3. la Contessa*

      I have to pipe up a day late to preach the gospel of Emergency Pantyhose. There is always an extra pair of pantyhose in my desk drawer, ever since the time I learned the hard way that when it snows in D.C., they either salt the sidewalk or shovel the sidewalk, but not both together.

  173. Former PR Girl*

    I’d just graduated college and moved to the big city to try my hand at public relations. I had an interview and it was going so well! Great back and forth between the interviewer and me, she loved my portfolio, she thought I’d be a great fit for the company’s culture and so on and so forth. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, this is going so well! I think we’ve been talking for awhile. Is that a good sign? It must be! Let me take a quick glance at my watch…”

    Sure enough in that split second I glanced at my watch, my interviewer glanced at me glancing at my watch and ended the interview shortly thereafter. I never heard from her again. Coincidence? I think not!

  174. Lia in the Library in London*

    Two from me from years ago when I was a student/new grad:

    I applied for a sunmer temp job at the Tower of London. Seemed like a good idea as I was in my third year of a history degree. I sent an application and covering letter for the role of ‘administrative assistant’. I’m pretty sure I wrote something mortifying about loving admin AND history… It was a few days after I submitted the application that I realised I had misread the title and they were recruiting for ‘admissions assistants’ … i.e. ticket booth staff… I retrospect, I think it was a lucky escape as that really wasn’t how I wanted to spend my summer. Still, pretty lame to apply for a completely different job to the one advertised!

    Second story is about an admin job where, on arrival for an interview, I was given a maths test. I am not great at maths, and wouldn’t choose a job where it was a major feature. I interviewed well. At the end, when asked if I had questions, I did say that I didn’t want a role where I’d be working with figures or doing maths regularly. The interviewer told me not to worry and that the test was someone else’s idea and really not important. I shouldn’t have listened! I got the job and I was a terrible fit, leaving after eight very stressful weeks working for someone who wasn’t my interviewer and who couldn’t understand why I’d been hired. It was really not for me – far too much maths and a lot of pressure. I should have trusted my instincts, especially as I knew the job had been advertised before. I subsequently saw it re-advertised several more times. They need an accountant not admin support!

    So my two lessons: read the advert properly, and think carefully about any ‘red flags’, especially if you won’t be working for the person who is interviewing you.

  175. Delurking to confess*

    I once had an interview at a company for a front desk position that involved some sales. I am not very sales-y but I was getting desperate for a job so off I went to the interview. They had me take a bunch of those computerized personality tests to see if I was on drugs/drinking (at work), selling drugs (at work), thought stealing was ok, etc. During the in-person part of the interview, I asked about the test and how effective they thought it was. I specifically mentioned how the 400+ question test asked the same questions repeatedly just phrased differently. The interviewer said they tripped up most people with that test format and were (my inference -smug) pleased about it. I said, “Oh, that’s kinda pathetic.” Of course I didn’t get the job.

    Another interview was going well and I thought I just might get this one… until the interviewer mentioned how they do team-building events like planting flowers around the corporate sign by the parking lot on weekends. Ummm… not my idea of fun at all. I don’t recall my exact answer but I know it had to do with “did they get paid for that?” Didn’t get that job either.

  176. Rachel Talada*

    I went to apply for a job in a cami, shorts, and flipflops at a retail store! It was spur of the moment with a friend who had planned to apply and I just came along.

    I got an on the spot interview and actually got hired! Worked there for 6 years, too. Started as part-time shipping and became a manager by my 4th year..

  177. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    I was the hiring manager in this story.

    I had someone turn up to interview for a temp role. When my manager (the two of us were conducting interviews) introduced me, he said “Yeah, of course, I know MJ, I was at her engagement party!”

    Now, I didn’t have an engagement party, I had a combined bachelor/ette party. Which would have been completely forgiveable…

    …if I had any idea at all who this guy was.

    I managed to come up with a “Yeah, of course, hi!” while frantically wracking my brain trying to figure out how I knew this person. He then proceeded to be really familiar with me in the interview, referencing my husband by name as his good friend several times. It was very strange. I called my husband after the interview, basically all “OMG who is this guy how have I forgotten him”. Turns out, he went to primary school (elementary) with my husband, who hadn’t seen him in 12 years when he turned up to our party in the company of one of the groomsmen.

    It was very odd, and he wasn’t qualified for the job for reasons totally unrelated to his insistence that we were secretly very good friends.

  178. Jader*

    As an anxious teen I brought my ten year old sister to an interview for moral support. It was at a library so she hung out in the kid section during the interview but still, cringe.

  179. MS*

    At my old job I was grossly underpaid, in part just because they underpaid everyone and in part because I my co-manager decided he didn’t want to manage anymore and I got all of his duties. He was the more senior person and he had about two-thirds of the administrative duties, so when he left it was a big change for me. But since it wasn’t a “promotion” because my job title didn’t change – no extra money. (This was before I found AAM to know I should have handled things very differently.) But in addition to their rigid no job title change-no raise policy, my boss wasn’t able to (or didn’t bother to) address things as part of the regular raise cycle AND the organization I worked for was one that wouldn’t address salary issues unless the person had an offer in-hand for another job. So I started applying for jobs, got an offer, even asked the woman to give me the offer in writing (because that was what was required for my current job to address things) and did so all with absolutely no intention of taking another job. On top of it, the new salary I offered was about 25% more, but my company could only give me a 9.9% raise, again because of a ridiculous policy. …it took me another six years to fully realize how toxic that place was a move on. But, I still feel really bad for wasting that company’s time interviewing for a job I knew I wouldn’t take.

  180. A.K.*

    I applied for a job in a city that was a three hour drive away, so when I was invited for an interview I brought my nice clothes along to change into and wore comfy sweats for the drive. When I arrived, I stopped at a drugstore near the office to change and buy a hairbrush, which I had forgotten, but when I went back to my car I realized I had locked my keys inside. I called my interviewer to let her know I had to walk the last bit so I’d be a little late and she offered to come pick me up. The interview went well and she dropped me back at my car. AAA came and unlocked my car, I changed back into my sweats and went to get lunch before heading home. That is where I realized that my credit card had fallen out of my pocket while I was in the interviewer’s car. I had to call her again, head back to the office in my sweats (no, I don’t know why I didn’t change first), and get my card from her, while she was escorting another candidate into the office.

    Amazingly, I was offered the job. I declined.

  181. Nelly*

    I went to one job covered in blood.

    A person was badly injured in a train accident, and I stopped to offer first aid. Had to wait for the ambulance, but after passing over the victim and giving details to the police, I just went to the job interview. Nearly two hours late, didn’t call to let them know, I just turned up, blood on my hands, shirt, pants, didn’t stop to wash it off. Sleeves rolled up over the bloody jacket, hair askew. Scrapes on my knees (my good purple suit!) and scrapes on my hands.

    The worst was that I had blood all over my face and mouth and I had made no effort to wash or even wipe it off.

    I think I must have walked in like something from a zombie apocalypse movie. Zombie Librarian!

    Did the whole interview in a state of shock, shaking and pale. They were in a state of shock, too! They kept trying to offer me water and warm drinks and baby wipes, and one lady gave me a hug and I got blood on her, too.

    Then I realised half way through the interview that I would need to go and get HIV tested from the blood I’d ingested, so I told them that and got up and walked out.

    They did offer me the job, but it wasn’t what I was looking for after all that. Plus I was embarrassed about the blood on their furniture and the whole thing was just messed up.

    (I posted this in the wrong place, d’oh)

      1. Nelly*

        I accidentally posted it in reply to someone’s rather less blood covered post up near the top :)

        Them: I wore the wrong clothes!
        Me: BLOOD! BLOOD! oops…

    1. Audiophile*

      I’m still trying to catch my breath from laughing so hard.

      I’m just picturing these poor people staring at your blood stained interview clothes and wondering what happened. You must have looked like you had been the victim of a crime.

      1. Nelly*

        I’m guessing something like that. It was an upmarket doctor’s surgery, all leather upholstery and oak panelling, and I walked in and said “Sorry I’m late, it was an accident” I think they thought I was there for treatment or something. The staff came rushing to help.

        I had gone in because I thought if I phoned and said there was an accident, they wouldn’t believe me and that I’d just slept late, so I went there as is to prove I wouldn’t be late if it hadn’t been important. Those kinds of thoughts make a lot of sense when you’re in that kind of state! “It matters so much what complete strangers think of me that it’s totally appropriate to go to a job interview covered in blood!”

        In the follow up call to the employment agency, the main reason they offered me the job seemed to be a mix of ‘impressed that I’d turned up’ and pity.

  182. The Bimmer Guy*

    Okay…I did actually call and harass an employer to whom I had sent an application for a remote web design position. The first time I called, I happened to reach the company owner, who appreciated my gusto and gave me an impromptu interview. He said he’d have an answer for me by the end of the week, but I called every day. I ended up being offered the position, so it worked out, but I’m thoroughly embarrassed about doing so and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I’d be annoyed if a candidate tried to circumvent my intake process in this manner. In fact, I was fired from that job three months after starting (it wasn’t a good fit), so maybe that tactic *didn’t* work…

  183. Jane*

    I wrote a federal resume in third person on the advice of someone who should have known better. I cringed all the way through writing it as well as every time I submitted a version of it, but it was what I thought I was supposed to do. I figured it out a couple of months later and landed an excellent position. There is some really strange resume advice floating around in the world, and my usual bs meter does not work when you get into a format as odd as the federal resume.

    1. De Minimis*

      I don’t see their format as odd, maybe it was in years past, prior to USAJobs. These days it’s no different than any other automated application system.

  184. Fantasma*

    When I was in college and home for the summer, my uncle got me an interview for a parks and rec job (where I would’ve been a less extreme April Ludgate). Since it was my first ever job interview, I had no idea what I was doing. I remember I answered all of the interviewer’s questions — probably not well — and it felt very awkward with long pauses between my answer and the next question. I didn’t get the job.

  185. Donna G.*

    This one is mortifying – chalk it up to young and dumb! I was interviewing after college for an admin job that specialized in working with the military. I know almost nothing about the military. I thought I was doing a good job of making a case for myself, until they asked me why someone would receive a Purple Heart. I had no idea, and guessed “Because they killed someone?” Needless to say, that interview wrapped up quickly and I never heard from them again.

  186. Anon for this one*

    Well, this was not my proudest moment….I was young, barely of legal drinking age, but luckily I have matured since then.

    But the night before an interview for a seasonal retail position, I went out and had a little…ahem….fun with friends. I believe those friends were beer and liquor. Woke up at my friend’s house the next morning after the party to my alarm; which I was smart and set early. Went home, changed, brushed my teeth to get rid of booze breath, made myself presentable, and went to the interview completely hungover. Got the job, but it ended up being an awful temp gig!

    1. Violetta*

      I went to an ‘intro day’ completely hungover once – I was in college at the time and I thought it’d be a great idea to celebrate my friend’s going away party the night before. We listened to presentations all morning, which went okay, but at the part where we shadowed someone, I thought I was going to vomit in their wastepaper basket at one point. I looked a real fright, too. I left thinking they’d never call me back. 4 years later, still at that company, and I love it.

  187. Academic Librarian*

    So by now AAM readers know the trials of a tenure track job site interview. Two days. back to back meetings. On all the time. The biggest challenge is the “job talk” I had never done a job talk but prepared like a demon. I had a professional relationship with one of the board members and was told that the job talk was open to the public. This information was confirmed by the hiring department assistant. I invited everyone I knew in that town. The room was packed. Standing room only. Bad news- turns out that the candidate job talk is not a public event. By public they meant various internal stakeholders outside of the library personnel. I had to ask people get up so that the hiring committee would have seats. It was only after I was hired and attended a few these that I observed they averaged about twenty people in the room, aside from the hiring committee the audience was all internal peers with a few board members. Yikes.

  188. AT*

    Oh, what /didn’t/ I do wrong…? Let’s see…

    I was 12 or 13 years old and had no idea about employment laws and working underage or anything, but I knew my dad had had a paper round in the ’70s and saved up to buy Pink Floyd records, and I wanted to buy an iPod. So I walked down to the local pet shop and asked if I could get a job there. I was a six foot tall, well-developed 12-13 year old with a deep voice, so they didn’t question my age, just handed me an application form to fill out and drop in. Which I did. Including the space for contact details of “current place of employment”, which I interpreted as being my school and wrote down my school’s phone number. (I assume I must have left some spaces blank that didn’t clue them on and somehow didn’t clue me on that I wasn’t supposed to do this – I can’t really remember. And presumably they just didn’t look at my date of birth.)

    Fast forward to a few days later, when someone came to get me from class at school, telling me there’s a phonecall for me at the office. I answered, and to my surprise and delight, it was the pet shop. The person on the phone asked me why I wanted a job there, and I excitedly told her about my ambitions to go to vet school and my love of animals. She asked me another question, and I…*cringe*…said,

    “Are there going to be many more questions? Because I’m not allowed to use the office phone for more than 20 minutes.”

    “Oh – well, we usually like to have more time than that for a phone interview.”

    “This is an interview?”

    It transpired fairly quickly from that point, that I was probably not the sales manager they were looking for.

    My second job search, aged 14, went a little better – I went to pick up a takeaway from a local restaurant, and there was a piece of paper on the door – “Dishwasher wanted, apply inside.” After picking up the takeaway, I said to the manager at the counter, “Er…that sign on the door…” The manager said, “Be here tomorrow at 7.” Me, this time assuming it was an interview or them wanting me to fill out an application, dressed myself up in my very nicest shirt and dress shoes, showered, did my hair. Nope. I’d got the job, and spent the next five hours, dressed for an interview, up to my elbows in steamy curry dishwater.

    That one has a happy ending, though. I washed dishes for eight months, saved up and bought an iPod that I was still using eight years later. :)

  189. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I just remembered my own! When I was 21, I applied for — and somehow got an interview for — a job that included running some trade organization’s electronic bulletin board system. (Remember those? This was 1994.) I had no idea what a bulletin board system was (I may at one point have thought it was an actual physical bulletin board). The night before the interview, I went to a bookstore, found some kind of “bulletin board systems for dummies” book, leafed through it while standing in the store, and — in the crazy way of overly cocky 21-year-olds — felt confident that I knew enough (?!).

    I then used the paltry amount of info I’d picked up from the book to try to BS my way through the interview — and didn’t even really think there was anything problematic about doing it. I guess I assumed that if I got the job, I could pick it up on the fly?

    Needless to say, my bluffing wasn’t as effective as I’d thought it was, and I did not get that job.

    1. Nelly*

      “I’d be excellent at this job! I can put the pins into a bulletin board like an expert and really very rarely actually stick them into my thumbs!”

  190. Soharaz*

    The biggest mistake I made in my first two jobs was panic about being unemployed and take the first job that made me an offer. I hadn’t thought about whether the role was a good fit for me, just whether they wanted me to work there. I’m hoping not to make the same mistake when I start looking again in a couple of months (after a cross country move).

  191. Keep Summer Safe*

    6 moments of impact
    – first day (and other firsts)
    – first new mgr

    I have several tales of interviews gone wrong.

    When I was a college senior, an outfit flew me out to California to interview me. I didn’t have a car at the time, and when I attempted to pick up the rental car the company had reserved for me – surprise! – I discovered that my license had expired. This did not make me look smart.

    Another interview, they flew me to New Jersey. As the plane touched down, I felt the unmistakable twinges of impending stomach flu. The next day I interviewed with 4 or 5 people, where I found that despite my best intentions, saying “I don’t want to shake your hand because I’m ill” is not a great way to bond with a hiring manager. But I managed to avoid vomiting on or near anyone, which I think explains why they made me an offer (which I turned down in favor of grad school).

    Somehow I had an on-campus interview with the NSA. I wore a white shirt, white suspenders, white pants and work boots (if you remember the movie A Clockwork Orange, it was basically that w/o the hat, eyelash, or jockstrap). I actually feel badly about this one – the interviewer was actually a nice fellow, and we had a pretty good talk, and I sometimes regret that I did not take it more seriously. This was a long time ago: I think I was trying to be “funny” but in reality I was just rude.

    Then there was a company where the hiring manager was something of a jerk, I’ll spare you the details. But at one point he gave me a set of “brain-teasers” and left me alone for an hour to do them. This was before most people had even heard of the Internet, and I’d been reading Martin Gardner’s column in Scientific American since I was 13yo, and I’d read books titled “101 Math Puzzles and Brain-Teasers”, etc. So I’d seen most of them before, tore through them, and as a reward I got to sit there for 55 minutes with absolutely nothing to do.

    Finally he came back, we went over the problems and the solutions. I think he was surprised that I solved them all. Now – there are some puzzles that a) are not well known that are also b) really, really difficult. Maybe not so difficult nowadays, with the ‘net. But this was like 1982. So as we’re winding up, I said “oh, hey, I’ve got a brain-teaser for you!” and – let’s say the problems he’d given me were the equivalent of hand grenades? – I dropped a 50KT nuke on him. Ten minutes later, he still couldn’t figure it out, so he asked me for the solution. The interview was basically over, so I said (with a big smile) “Hire me and I’ll tell you.” This went over about as well as you’d imagine, that is: not well at all. I didn’t back down and supply the answer, and so the walk out to the lobby was a bit tense. But I’d already decided I wasn’t keen on working for this guy / this company. This would be a better story if it had a punchline like “But to my surprise, they made me an offer!” but the reality is no, they did not.

  192. Caffeinated*

    Many, many years ago when I was fresh out of undergrad, I applied for two positions within the same time period. One was an internship and one was a volunteer position. Got a call one day from a woman who, without identifying her company, asked whether I would be available for an interview for the “volunteer role.” I enthusiastically confirmed that I was and decided to show her how resourceful I was by saying something like “I assume the website office address is still valid?”. Affirmative. Anyway the day of the interview comes and I, dressed up in a full suit, show up at the company advertising the volunteer position and tell them I’m there for an interview. They were naturally very confused and after a few seconds I realized with a sinking feeling in my stomach that the interview was actually for the INTERNSHIP (it was stipend only so I guess that’s why the woman called it a volunteer role??). I race across town, texting the HR lady, and arrive over an hour late to my interview. The HR lady was extremely nice and I could hear her persuading the angry hiring manager to follow through with the interview. I would have totally understood if the manger decided to cancel the interview but anyway we ended up sitting down for what seemed like a full interview.

    I didn’t get either of those positions but a few days later started interning at that company’s larger, more prestigious competitor. So it ended well for me but I am still embarrassed.

  193. Carrie in Scotland*

    I once went for a job interview in the afternoon – something like 3/4 pm – and it was a group interview (urgh!) I was 20 and young. I had a drink…or 2 of alcohol to “pep” me up beforehand as I was so nervous. I got a job* there but have never done that again. Now I just eat cake.

    * It was for a well known American brand who used to have amazing adverts in the 90’s/early 2000’s. One of my managers advised me that my outfit was too low cut (it was layered and we all had to buy clothes from them) which counts as one of my most embarrassing moments ever.

  194. CM*

    First job out of college. I was so blown away by the starting salary I was offered by one job (which obviously I didn’t even think about negotiating) that I canceled my interviews for other jobs and notified the other companies I had already interviewed with that I wouldn’t be working for them. I ALMOST sent one of them an email saying I had gotten “an offer I can’t refuse” until a friend saw it and talked me out of it. It didn’t occur to me that, being in the same industry, the other companies would probably offer similar salaries, that there might be a reason to take a job other than having the highest salary, or that it would be a good thing to try to get multiple offers.

  195. dear liza dear liza*

    When my parents left me at college freshmen year, I cried. I decided to distract myself by finding a campus job. I sat down in the Career Services office and looked through the big binder of campus jobs, crying the whole time. I filled out paper applications, sniffling. Then I walked around campus and, tears running down my face, handed out my completed applications to bewildered admins and professors.

    I did get a campus job- at the office where I slipped my application under the door because no one was around. I swear I didn’t cry at the job itself. :)

  196. Mena*

    My boss’s boss asked me to interview someone he had worked with a number of years ago. It was acknowledged that this person was over-qualified for the open position on my team but his former colleague asked to be interviewed and he felt it necessary to provide him the opportunity.

    A phone interview was scheduled and the guy blew it on the first question, “What is it about this position that is most interesting to you?”

    Response: “My wife says it is time that I get a W2 (meaning salaried) income.”

    Well, I muddled along with him for another 20 minutes. When I asked about some specific skills/experience pertinent to the role he said, “Oh, I’ve done all that.” He didn’t feel it necessary that he share any examples of his work in these key areas.

    My boss’s boss never asked me for feedback. I guess he already knew but just felt obligated to get him the interview.

  197. Isabel*

    Reading about everyone’s wardrobe malfunctions made me remember mine:

    When I was in my twenties, I had an interview for an editorial job I desperately needed. I dressed in a nice blouse and knee length skirt, with my favorite leather boots, to “show my personality.” The boot were brown leather, with a medium heel and came up almost to the knee. Not nearly as professional as a pair of pumps, but not terrible.

    I took the subway from Manhattan, to the company’s location in an unfamiliar part of Queens. As I came up out of the subway, the sky went dark and rain suddenly poured down, soaking me. (No, of course I hadn’t checked the weather.) I broke into a run but my path was soon blocked by a man urgently shouting something in Spanish. Despite our language barrier, he was eventually able to call my attention to the fact that the zipper of my left boot had broken and the boot had collapsed down around my foot. I was running through the rain, stepping on the boot’s leather upper.

    With only minutes to spare (No, of course I hadn’t planned extra travel time for contingencies.), I ducked into a diner bathroom to assess the damages. I wiped black streaks of melted mascara from my cheeks, slicked my rain-soaked hair into a tight bun and tried to fasten my boot together with a large bobbie pin. When that failed, I folded the leather down as neatly as possible. (Not very neat!)

    My interviewer was sympathetic, friendly and dressed on the casual side. The office was shabby, dark and very cold . The interviewer walked me through the workflow, software and types of projects the job entailed. It was grim, tedious, repetitive work, with little room for creativity or advancement, but I really needed a job. The interviewer seemed enthusiastic about me and said he’d get me started on my edit test. It’s pretty standard in my field to be tested for grammar, AP style, etc. Often these tests are just a couple pages. But this test was the completion of one project, typical to what I would encounter on the job, to be completed in approximately three hours.

    It seemed ridiculous to spring this without letting me know in advance. It still does. I had no other plans for the day and again I really needed a job, but I was just so uncomfortable in my crumpled boot, shivering with wet clothing and hair, in that depressing little room. So I lied and said I would love to take the edit test but I had another appointment. Could we schedule another time for me to come back? Sure, the interviewer said. He would be in touch about that. We wrapped things up and I left, eager to go home and take a hot shower, and certain the job was mine if I wanted it. That bleak little place would be lucky to have someone with my obvious talents and charisma. Honestly, that is what I thought.

    Never heard back. No response to my thank you and follow-up email.

  198. Anon this time*

    My first job out of college was for the famous big 3-letter tech company. When applying for a job outside of that company a number of years later, it totally just didn’t occur to me that so much of what I ended up putting on my resume over that time was their own internal jargon that was absolute gibberish to everyone else.

    It came to me, in a horrific flash of insight, after I’d been talking an interviewer through how I prepared and reconciled the I&E for my employer, and he paused then asked “what’s an I&E?”. (The rest of the world knows it as a P&L)

    Needless to say I rewrote my resume in English post haste! But I did manage to get that job, after turning my mortification into a point of humor and discussing how it’s funny that every business has its own language.

  199. TKKT*

    I lost my job at the beginning of the 2008 recession and spent about six months unemployed. I was sending out resumes left and right, and finally got an email back from one prospective employer asking if I had time for a brief chat on the phone a couple days later. In the interim, I got the flu for the first time in a decade and was totally laid out miserable. The morning of the phone call I finally went to the doctor, who prescribed me this cough syrup laced with vicodin that for some reason, California doctors dole out like crazy. I promptly fell asleep for hours, only to be woken up in a stupor by my phone ringing. Being too afraid to lose out on the job, I answered. It ended up being a full-on phone interview (not common in my industry) for which I was totally unprepared — and I was probably high as a kite if not just groggy and out of it. I doubt I made any sense, do not remember anything I said, and I passed back out as soon as it was over. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job!

  200. mka1450*

    I got wind of a great opportunity in my industry, with a company that I’ve collaborated with on projects for my current company. In my dusty mind, I thought it would make sense to email my company contact from my work email in order to jog her memory about who I was. Without thinking, I sent her my resume. Then I realized I had just sent job-seeking communications from my work email during work hours!

    The other company ended up not caring—they wrote back immediately to say that they would love to interview me. (In the end I passed on the opportunity because the job wasn’t actually a great fit.)

    As far as my current employer goes, it remains to be seen. We’re a non-profit with outsourced (and incompetent) tech support, so I’m not terribly worried.

    Regardless, I won’t be doing that again!

  201. Beyonce*

    Interviewed for a new position in my very fast-paced, quick turn-around field, and was asked how I prioritize my day and manage my time at work, and I replied “Well, first I like to remind myself that I have just as many hours in the day as Beyonce.”


    Got the job… been here a while. They seem to appreciate my confidence, but I cringe when I think about that!

  202. Poster Name Withheld*

    I was desperate to leave my awful job for many reasons. I interviewed at another company and was so nervous about making a good impression. One of the first questions the interviewer asks is “so why are you looking to leave your current job?”. I blurted out “because I’d like to stay out of jail”.

    They looked horrified but quickly moved on with questions. To my surprise they called me back for a 2nd interview but I didn’t get the job.

    And I really did want to stay out of jail and get away from the terrible management.

  203. AnonymousMe*

    Two months ago, I got called for a phone screen. The recruiter woke me up. I should have just said “I’ll call you back,” but my sleep-addled brain didn’t think of that. “Sure, I can talk now!” And then when he later asked why I wanted to work there, I went on to extol the virtues of Teapot Incorporated and why I would be a perfect fit there. There was a brief silence, and then “Actually, this is Teapots Limited.” In my sleepy state I’d misheard him and thought he was with another company I’d applied with. He was lovely about it and didn’t stop the interview then and there, but I definitely didn’t get a call back. I’m still blushing two months later.

  204. kflemin3*

    Right after I graduated from college I was interviewing in a nearby city for a communications position that had a strong editing component. I had plenty of editing experience from working for publications throughout college and a part-time editing job as a student, so I thought I had it in the bag. Needless to say, I did not prepare as much as I should have. It was also the first time I was interviewed by more than two people (there were four of them in the room) so I got ridiculously nervous as soon as I sat down. I (thankfully) don’t remember too many details about what answers I gave to their questions, but I distinctly remember the “you sound ridiculous” feeling I got halfway through the process and the inability to stop talking. As in, at certain points I feel like I floated out of my body, looked down at me sitting in the chair and watched as I kept blabbing on and on about something completely unimportant — right after telling them that one of my skills was to condense communications so that they were succinct.

    Then I had to take a skills test to indicate my editing abilities, which I’m sure I completely bombed. They told me I could leave immediately after I finished the test and since no one was in the conference room when I finished AND I had no idea where anyone’s offices were located, I just let myself out. It was only when I got home that I realized I had forgotten my jacket on their coat rack.

    In my thank you e-mail, I noted my missing jacket and asked if it was possible to have my boyfriend stop by their office to pick it up. I sent him partially because he worked in the city and I didn’t want to have to pay the fare to go back to retrieve it (I think it was something like €15…nothing too expensive). In reality, I think it’s because I was mortified on how horrible I was and just didn’t want to face them again. It was awful, and I cringe thinking about it today. Obviously, I never heard back from them.

  205. NoTurnover*

    I once answered my cell phone DURING AN INTERVIEW. This was in the early days of cell phones, so I’m not sure if I forgot to put it on silent or somehow…just thought I always needed to answer my phone, no matter what? It was my roommate calling to see how the interview went. I told her I was still in it.

    Shockingly, they still offered me the job.

  206. AHK*

    In my most recent search, I was basically using the same cover letter to apply to different jobs, because the jobs are very similar. But I did not pay enough attention to detail to change the name of the institution throughout the entire cover letter. I will blame this on the working full time plus parenting a young child after just moving to a new city, but still…

    (Although I did catch the mistake in time to fix it and line up a new job :) )

  207. JessaB*

    I had to be about 17 years old or maybe even younger, but it was probably right near the end of High School. Went on an interview, thought it went well, called practically from a payphone on my way home asking if I got the job.

    Father explained when I got home, that is not how you DO that. But how was I supposed to know? No, BTW, I did not get the job. But I did get the next one after a huge bunch of “this is how you job search,” from the parents.

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