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 uh..it’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.
      UGH.

  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*

        +1

        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

      0_0

      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: https://www.askamanager.org/2014/05/i-showed-up-for-my-interview-on-the-wrong-day.html

    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 about.me 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*

      LOL

      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 d