what to say if you want to walk out of a horrible interview

One thing I’ve noticed in years of writing this blog is that people when find themselves in terrible, ridiculous job interviews where they’re being mistreated — or even just interviews where it’s clear really early on that this isn’t the right match — they feel obligated to stick it out until the end.

You’re not obligated to stay when that happens.

In fact, look at it from the employer’s side: Employers cut short interviews all the time when it becomes clear that it’s not the right match. You’re allowed to do the same thing yourself.

Now, there are times when it’s still in your best interests to finish the interview anyway — such as if you think that you might want a different job with this employer at some point in the future. And certainly if you just realize that the job isn’t quite the right fit (as opposed to the interviewers being abusive), it generally makes sense to see it through anyway, because the company might have an opening in the future that you do want, or your interviewer might later move to a company that you’d love to work at, or they might refer you to a contact who’s hiring for a job that you would be interested in. In those cases, it makes sense to stay just for networking reasons (plus it can be useful interviewing practice).

But if you’re being treated poorly or subjected to ridiculous interviewing practices (like having to prepare a meal alongside 19 other candidates or being held hostage at a cattle call for an insurance scam or your interviewer accuses you of lying), it’s entirely reasonable to get up and leave.

Here’s what you say:

“You know, as we’re talking, I’m realizing that this isn’t going to be the right fit. I don’t want to take up any more of your time, but thanks so much for meeting with me.”

For interviews that aren’t what you signed up for (like being told to work out an apocalypse survival scenario with group of other candidates): “Oh, I’m sorry, I misunderstood the nature of the interview. I don’t think is for me, so I’ll excuse myself now.”

Alternately, you can stay and see it through just so that you have a good story to share afterwards — but that’s only if you’re someone who will enjoy doing that, and it’s only if staying doesn’t require degrading yourself or consenting to truly objectionable practices (like that group interview where they had to cook dinner for employees).

Particularly in group interview situations, though, I wish more people would stand up and say “no thanks, this isn’t for me” — because in groups, seeing one person do that can spark a domino effect where others become willing to say it too.

To be clear, I’m not encouraging you to walk out of interviews willy-nilly, and definitely not if you’re not 100% sure that you won’t want to work for this company or these people in the future. But when an interview is really crossing a line, you’re allowed to leave.

{ 248 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve totally done this! I was in an interview and it became really clear that I was in no way qualified for the job, and rather than bullsh*t my way though the questions I just said “you know, as I’m listening to these questions I realize I’m really not qualified for this position. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time so let’s just end this early.”

    They were a little surprised, but honestly – why sit there and embarrass myself for a half hour? It was really clear that it was a mismatch.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    My worst interview ever.

    I was out of grad school and looking for a job.  A local high school advertised tutoring opportunities on CraigsList that fit into my schedule.  

    The entire interview one hour and 45 minutes.  I said three or four sentences total because the interview never asked me any questions!  The interviewer was just…I don’t know what was wrong with her.  It was an hour into the interview that I realized that job wasn’t what it was advertised. 

    I applied to tutor in a -specific- field: the foreign language listed in the ad.  The tutors they were hiring were supposed to tutor whatever subject students asked for when they came in.  I told her I didn’t have the skill set to do anything other than the foreign language I specified, but she didn’t seem all that concerned.  “We do what what we can!”  She goes on to say that I couldn’t just tutor kids; I had to use the Socratic method for everything.  As in…I couldn’t give them the answers even if they asked direct questions.  They had to guess it themselves.  

    I learned that language by memorizing, writing the nouns on things all over my house, and watching a lot of TV when I lived in that country.  

    I didn’t have anything else to do that afternoon so I let the woman drone on and on.  She yammered on about LGBT policies, all the kids who were LGBT, HR policies, dress code, never being alone with a student without another adult present, etc.  Best part?  Our interview was in an open space, and the three employees who walked by that she supervised?  She had no idea what their names were.

    The interview ended when she handed me a W2 to fill out and contact information for a place where I needed to get fingerprinted.  Yes, that’s right.  The woman offered me the job and assumed I wanted it without asking me anything beyond, “How are you today?” and “Do you live far?” 

    Today, I would have written a letter to the principal.  Back then, I laughed.

    1. AMT*

      I am surprised by the number of jobs I’ve been offered on the spot. I showed up to an interview for an adjunct professor gig and the department head was like, “Okay, so you’ll be teaching Friday! Here’s the textbook.” It was Wednesday. Don’t they…maybe want to make sure I’m not nuts?

      1. Academic Administrator*

        Nuts is par for the course in academia, though. I’d be more worried that I appeared suitably nuts for them to accept me.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        That’s a mark of desperation or a clueless interviewer or both.

        The last thing that woman said to me was, “Bring those forms back along with the completed background check report from [company] on Thursday, and we’ll get you started!”

        I wanted to say, “You don’t even know if I speak the language I claim to know!” I imagine the tutors were a disaster.

      3. collegeemployee*

        If the professor who was originally assigned to teach the class quit at the last minute, they may not have had time to do a thorough job search. Their only choices may have been to hire you or cancel the class.

        1. AMT*

          That was it. The state had just passed a law making it illegal to hire people for more than a certain number of hours per week without benefits, so rather than giving their existing adjuncts benefits, they cut everyone’s hours and hired a bunch of new people that semester.

            1. KH*

              And this is why the US is so screwed up when it comes to job benefits. Our government passes laws that aim to bring us more in par with the rest of the goddam civilized world, and our oligarchic overlords just figure out loopholes to make our existence more miserable than it already was!

      4. Clever Name*

        I was going to say nearly the same thing- I was offered an adjunct position on the spot after an interview. At least it was a couple of weeks before the class started. I figured I was the only candidate to apply who had any teaching experience.

      5. brownblack*

        Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve been offered on the spot or by phone immediately after the interview ended.

        I recently had an interview for a job I REALLY want, and they are dragging their feet like crazy and it’s clear to me that I am currently a back-up choice while they try to work something out with one or more other candidates. I have this feeling almost entirely because they didn’t offer me the job the day I interviewed.

        1. Rater Z*

          I worked with freight charges, actually figuring the charge on most of the shipments the trucking company handled each day. In a company of 5,000 people, there might have been 6 people doing it at night and 10 more answering phones and such during the day. Out of 16-20 people, perhaps 4-5 had done it during the pre-computer days so we really understood what we were doing. I was one of them with 32 years under my belt. We really controlled most of the revenue the company would be pulling in.

          When I answered an ad, I knew it would be two to three weeks before getting a response to my letter, After that, it might be another couple of weeks before being called in for an interview with still more time before finding out if I got the job for which I would then have to move.

          With CW, I answered the ad in January, had the interview during the week of Memorial Day, was offered the job in mid-June and accepted it the following day, moved a 1000 miles and started the job on July 13th. I left a job 25 miles north of Philadelphia for one 50 miles south of Wausau, Wisc. When I went from Milwaukee to South Carolina, it was only a two month process, but easier because the two companies had a business relationship and the new job had a knowledge of what I was leaving. For the job I last had here, a guy I had previously worked at another place had a personal friendship with someone who had wound up in the new company thru a merger but it still took three months before starting it.

    2. Joanna*

      Usually being hired on the spot without being vetted means they are getting something out of you. I have a friend who signed up to sell knives to people—it sounded like one of those quasi-pyramid schemes, since she had to buy a set of knives herself to join—but it was marketed as a “job interview.”

      But in your case, I’m thinking, a very inexperienced interviewer.

        1. Joanna*

          I think it was Cutco/Vector Marketing. I guess they are pretty well know for this stuff in this area. Sounds on par with Amway, probably worse.

          1. KH*

            Yup, Cutco/Vector Marketing. I was drawn into that once. The only knives I sold were to friends/colleagues. I still have my knife set. They are good knives. Overpriced, but good. They did sell it for a considerable discount – basically at-cost.
            It was not for total waste. I did learn a lot about selling/marketing and it helped me to be a more discerning customer – I’ve probably saved thousands in interactions with car salespeople!

      1. Kate Heightmeyer*

        I was hired on the spot for two tutor positions at my university. The interviews were basically “This is the job. Can you do that? Good.” They were desperate to find someone but I also came recommended.

      2. Just somebody*

        She could be inexperienced, but my first thought was that the standards for that position were just ridiculously low and she needed a body. She wanted to be able to say, “Look! We offer tutoring for kids who are struggling!” and was less concerned about actually helping those kids.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          After all these years, I never considered that. You’re probably right, considering the lack of scrutiny of…anything!

          I feel sorry for the kids though. They go in wanting help, and not only do these adults not know the answers but the kids have to play 20 questions to figure anything out!

      3. Collarbone High*

        Ugh, I accidentally went to one of these, but for perfume. It was advertised as a “marketing management trainee” position but the “training” was just a high-pressure MLM sales pitch. They brought in box lunches and specifically forbade us from leaving at lunchtime. I sneaked out a back door when the trainer’s back was turned.

        1. Kat A.*

          They can’t legally forbid anyone from leaving, otherwise they may be charged with abduction or holding you hostage (charges depend on your jurisdiction). They can’t stop someone without consequences.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I want to emphasize that they can’t stop you. It doesn’t matter if they tell you that you can’t leave. You don’t need to sneak out or wait for someone’s back to be turned. You can stand up, say “this isn’t for me,” and walk out. If they tell you not to, you ignore them.

            1. AMT*

              Just wanted to add that I’ve heard that, in some MLM scam group “interviews,” they will take your ID for “photocopying” and not let you have it back until they conclude their pitch, which could be several hours. I’m not actually sure how I’d handle that situation. Probably make a huge fuss until they gave it back.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Or just…don’t hand it over. That should be the huge, neon red flag with “IT’S A SCAM, GET OUT NOW” emblazoned on it.

                1. Jazzy Red*

                  I think someone here actually did that!

                  Of course, I can’t remember who or when, but this is the only place I would have read something like that.

              2. OhNo*

                I’d probably threaten to call the cops. Heck, I might actually go through with it! I don’t care if I get a fine for wasting police time, at that point it’s got to be some kind of crime.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Theft of a room’s worth of identification documents isn’t a waste of police time/resources. Especially if they can get them all back by simply showing up.

              3. Winter is Coming*

                That in and of itself would be a red flag…there are no situations I can think of where someone needs to photocopy your ID/license for an interview. (Maybe some high security clearance government position?)

                1. IT Kat*

                  Yeah, but you know that going in if that’s the case… and usually it’s just for security and they swap it for a visitor’s pass to the building, not “for photocopying”. (Speaking from personal experience, here.)

                  Unless you’re filling out new hire paperwork, or at at a security checkpoint, never hand over your ID.

                2. Charlotte Collins*

                  Trust me, they need a lot more than your ID for that. You’d notice all the paperwork, that you would have to take home with you.

                  Needing an ID to fill out forms once you’re hired makes sense, but unless they want to verify you age for a position with a minimum age requirement, I don’t see why they’d need it for the interview. And they definitely shouldn’t need to take it away from you.

                3. AcademiaNut*

                  I’ve worked for government facilities where you needed to be checked in at security to enter the grounds as a visitor, so passing over ID to be copied would be reasonable for an interview. But I would generally assume that NASA wasn’t trying to hold my ID hostage to force me into an MLM.

                4. Hillary*

                  I tend to photocopy applicants’ IDs during interviews. Having one on file is a requirement for working with us under state regulations, and it’s easier to do it then. I do it in full view of the applicant, however, and return it immediately.

                5. Rater Z*

                  I was in the trucking industry so one reason would be that applicant for driving a truck was actually old enough.

                  The second reason would be to see your age without asking for it, in hopes they could find out your age without asking you at the interview. Either way, that is illegal for those of us over 40 years of age but employers will do anything they can to knock us out of the job.

          2. Collarbone High*

            That was the red flag that pushed me from “well, different companies do things differently I guess” (I was 19) to “WTF, is this a cult? I’m outta here.”

      4. Mimmy*

        I was hired on the spot at a wholesale manufacturing company for what turned out to be a receptionist. Based on my horrendous experience, I think it was out of desperation due to being unable to keep anyone in that role. Gee I wonder why!?

    3. Julie*

      I’m actually at my current job because they hired me on the spot. Or, more to the point, there wasn’t really any hiring process to speak of. An old boss recommended me for a temporary position at an affiliated organization, which they needed filled immediately. I had a Skype interview in which my now-boss mostly talked logistics and how I would handle various tasks. I went in the next week for what I thought was in interview and turned out to be a full day of training. I didn’t even know what my pay would be until I’d been in the office for a week. :)

      I did it because I knew it would be a short-term position — it’s ending sometime within the next month, and I started in August — and because I wanted to get them on my resume. But still… hilarious!

  3. Sascha*

    I had an interview where I realized early on it wasn’t a good fit, and I said something along the lines of what Alison suggested above, and started to get up to leave. The interviewer then told me to sit down, I was not allowed to leave, and then berated me for saying that, as well as a host of other “errors” I had made during the interview. I really should have just said, “NOPE sorry, but I need to be going now,” and walked out. No one can keep you there if you don’t want to stay. Wish I could go back in time and tell my 20-year-old self that!

    1. LEY*

      Wow, that’s horrible. I understand, though. When I was 20 I was invited to interview…in the cafeteria of a children’s hospital. For a completely unrelated organization and position. I thought it was weird but I hadn’t exactly gone on a lot of interviews in the past, so what did I know. The interviewer gave me no explanation for why we were meeting there until the end of the interview, where he proceeded to grill me about why I didn’t ask why we were meeting in a hospital.

      I didn’t really want to tell him that I had just assumed that he was inexperienced at interviewing, but he wouldn’t let up for close to ten minutes and kept hinting that I wasn’t assertive enough because I didn’t ask. Finally, I was like “Okay, why are we meeting at a children’s hospital?”

      And he told me that his son was currently there receiving treatment.

      I have no idea why he wanted me to ask that. I should have ditched that interview, for sure.

        1. LEY*

          I was invited back for a second interview, but I declined. The second interview was a group interview and they wanted me and the other candidate to share an Uber there…and pay for it.

          1. Dan*

            ??? You couldn’t walk, drive, take transit, or for that matter, your own Uber? For local interviews, convention is that you take care of your own expenses, but similar convention is that you’re a big person and can figure out your own mode of transportation.

            1. LEY*

              Hmm… I live in a city where people rely on public transportation and I don’t have a car. The interview was going to be held somewhere outside of the city where you would need to drive to get there. I’m not sure why they specified Uber, but I’m not sure how else I was going to get there so I guess it makes sense.

              Definitely agree with you about the money thing. I was thinking about this some more and I realized that I pay for myself when I take public transportation to an interview, so it makes sense that I would pay for the Uber. I think at that point I was just looking for crazy.

              1. Sparky*

                I picture the second interview having the question,”Why do you think you’re being interviewed on a rubber plantation/in an underground bunker/in a ball pit at Chucky Cheese’s…”

                1. Leah*

                  Maybe they’d take it even further. “Why am I dressed like a clown?” “Why am I holding this banjo and turkey jerky?”

    2. Julie*

      Oh, man, there are so many things I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self. Including, “You don’t need to work in illegal conditions. You can totally call them on what they’re doing and force them to fix it.”

    3. Allison*

      I get it. When we’re new to adulthood, it doesn’t immediately occur to all of us that you’re almost always allowed to leave a situation, because growing up we’re forced to stay in situations until someone dismisses us and/or takes us home, or if we do leave on our own accord there’s someone waiting at home to say “we don’t quit in this family!” Boring party? You can leave. You don’t like the lecture? You can walk out. New doctor not working out? You can end the appointment, you don’t need to wait for them to dismiss you. Bad date? You can just go home. Leaving a situation prematurely might have consequences, but unless you’re under arrest or serving prison time, it’s pretty much always allowed.

      1. Puffle*

        +1 As a young adult it took me a little while to realise, “Oh, hey, I can just leave now if I want to”. I was so used to having to wait for permission. I think that a lot of adults forget just how strong the power-differential feels when you’re on the kid end, and don’t remember that these things can be a bit weird and scary when you first start out.

      2. Collarbone High*

        This was honestly one of the most valuable realizations of my life. That and extrapolating it to, don’t like a relationship? You can end it.

      3. Joie*

        This is a very interesting viewpoint to me.

        When it comes to work/professional/official-related situations I recognize that I used to wait for permission, but in my personal life, even when growing up, I never had to wait for permission… I wonder if it’s just different upbringing. I was always the one making big decisions for the family (simply b/c I was translating for parents who don’t speak English) so I never thought I needed to wait for permission to do… anything!

    4. KH*

      How could that possibly end well? How would an employer benefit from continuing an interview when it’s plain and clear that the candidate doesn’t want the job? Is the interviewer going to force you to change your mind?

      Where I work, we have too much to do and would welcome getting an extra 15-30 minutes back!

  4. LawBee*

    (not to derail, but if you click on the cattle call link, and read through comments, there’s a link to a wonderful pic of our beloved Alison being arrested at the Capitol for civil disturbance. <3 <3 <3 <333333333 )

        1. fposte*

          Because otherwise she won’t go.

          Though the angle does make it look like they’ve tied your legs with police tape, Alison :-).

          1. Natalie*

            Oh, weird. Kind of looks like they’re posing for a “catch of the day” type fishing picture.

          1. Mike C.*

            So I’ve heard that many groups here in Seattle will actually coordinate with police ahead of time – talking about the path taken, what sort of actions will be performed by protestors that will get them arrested, and the name of the lawyer that will be waiting at the jail to bail everyone out at the end of the night. The idea being is that the police let protesters do their thing, the protesters get their photos/media spotlight, the police don’t have to deal with any surprises and everyone goes home at the end of the night.

            Did you ever do this sort of coordination?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Nope, although it doesn’t surprise me. We generally found that the police were pretty friendly; we were polite and professional and the nature of our “crime” (civil disobedience) was pretty non-threatening, as crimes go. Some of the police seemed to enjoy talking to us — I have a great memory of talking to one police officer about vegetarianism while I was spending a few hours being detained in Chicago after a demonstration at Northwestern — and in general they were friendly and respectful, but we didn’t do that kind of coordination with them.

              (I obviously had a different experience as a young white woman than I might have had if that weren’t the case.)

              My weirdest experience with police was actually in Hong Kong, where they were very much Not a Fan of protests but they just didn’t know what to do with us.

              1. Revolver Rani*

                In Neal Stephenson’s early novel Zodiac, there is a lot of great stuff about how a seasoned environmental activist works his relationships with law enforcement and media to make his activities – including some for which people get arrested – as “mediagenic” as possible. It’s pretty interesting.

          1. Sarahnova*

            I can’t tell you how much of a kick I got out of finding out your were a former rabble-rouser with multiple arrests under your belt.

      1. Winter is Coming*

        I can’t explain just how much I love this. I am tempted to try this on the job today.

    1. knitchic79*

      Lol I was coming here to mention this. That’s the best picture ever…that hair, omg I’m seriously jealous. Not very many half-Hispanic gingers though, oh well.

  5. AnonPi*

    Yeah my worst one to date was being asked if I had trouble “getting dirty with the boys”, while the two interviewers (both men) giggled and elbowed each other like children (for context this job was mainly field work). I kinda just sat there stunned and all WTF did that just happen? Then they proceeded to ask if I could carry “heavy stuff” cause you know, girl and all. To which I replied “no I have a bunch of fine strapping young men to do that for me”. Apparently it was their turn to be stunned speechless while trying to figure out if I was serious or not, lol

    I debated walking out after that or not, but decided to stay since a friend of mine worked for them, and she was listed on my application (they had a referral bonus), and didn’t want any possible ramifications for her. I later found out through her that I had apparently been the “token female” they interviewed just to satisfy HR, and they never had any intention of hiring me. But yeah, worst interview ever.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        No on mad men they would’ve invited her to stay for cocktails and a good romp afterward

    1. Dan*

      I worked as a baggage handler for an airline, and I *have* worked with people who couldn’t lift a normal bag to shoulder height. It does kind of blow when your coworkers can’t do the job they were hired to do.

      1. neverjaunty*

        The way to find out if someone can do that is to ask, not to giggle like sixth graders and insinuate that girls can’t lift heavy things.

          1. AnonPi*

            Yeah see that’s my take on this kind of thing, there are men I know who wouldn’t have the upper body strength (or just plain old brute force) to do heavy lifting, and there are women waaayyyy stronger than I am. I have no problem being asked if I can handle lifting X pounds, carry field packs, etc, but don’t make the assumption that because I’m female I can’t do it.

      2. heavyweightlady*

        I pull grip equipment in a teaching environment and for a single order lifted over 1200lbs of sandbags by myself. This is a daily occurrence. I’m a woman and I would be livid if I had been passed for this job based on gender. It does suck when people can’t pitch in for the job but gender isn’t tied to it. I was asked when I interviewed if I could safely lift 50lbs and I said yes, because I can. If I had lied I wouldn’t still be in the position but I’m grateful no one made assumptions about me, especially because I sort of look like Zooey Deschanel. At a glance I’m not exactly one you’d immediately assume can repeatedly lift and carry heavy equipment but I can and do and enjoy it.

        1. heavyweightlady*

          The above was for Dan, not the original comment. That stinks that you were brought in as a token interview. It’s a terrible mindset.

        2. VintageLydia USA*

          This was me 6 years ago when I worked retail. The only reason I couldn’t lift the 40# bags actually over my shoulder was because I had short arms and narrow shoulders… no where for it to balance/sit. But I had the strength no problem.

    2. MashaKasha*

      The “getting dirty with the boys” reminded me. I had an interview where the guy who would’ve been my boss made a drug joke five minutes into the interview. I am very against the war on drugs and all that, but there’s a time and a place for everything and a job interview was just not it. Never occurred to me to walk out, though. So I sat through interviews with him and then two more people, wasted an extra two hours of my life, only to be called next week and told I wasn’t a good fit (gee, ya think?)

  6. Julie*

    I’ve done this. I was once working with a recruiter and he passed along a job opportunity at a company that was completely outside my field and not quite the sort of position I’d normally take. Still, he was pushing it quite hard and insisted it would be a really great match for me. I figured I’d go for the interview and maybe they’d wow me.

    At the same time, the company had been iffy about me, but figured that because the recruiter was pitching me so hard they’d take a chance and see if I would wow them.

    I went to the interview, sat with the hiring manager, and we both realized within about five minutes that both of our initial hesitations had been correct and neither of us was wowing the other. I pretty much said, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t really the position I thought it would be, and I don’t think I’m the person you’re looking for. Best of luck to you.” I was in and out in about five minutes.

    Nothing about it was terribly *bad*, but it was just immediately clear that this was not going to be a good match for either of us.

  7. Anna*

    I’ve left an interview when I realized that a) it was a sales job advertised as a marketing job, b) the first part of the interview was weird and useless, and c) it would involve walking up to strangers in Home Depot and ask if they were interested in having their cabinets refinished. About midway through, the guy who was telling us about the position asked if it sounded like something we’d be interested in and I stood up and said this didn’t sound like a good fit and walked out. It is empowering to know when it’s not going to happen and you can take action and leave!

    1. Joie*

      Hahaha I had something like this too: selling DirectTV in Costco! I sat through the whole thing because I didn’t know better at the time.

    2. Kairi*

      My sister did that job at Home Depot for two weeks before going crazy and quitting. I felt bad because she had been excited about getting a new position which is why I think she accepted the position. I’ve since shown her how to tell if it’s a legit job or a sales job.

      1. Kairi*

        I meant “sales” jobs, such door to door or the one she did at Home Depot, not that some sales jobs aren’t a legit job :)

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah. anything that involves selling one company’s product surreptitiously in another company’s store is a red flag!

        2. ashleyh*

          I hire sales people now (for a legitimate, international company with a recognizable name – we pay a base salary plus hefty commission – our average sales rep makes 95k a year) and so many people are so scared. We have a Sales Trainee position which is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a training program to learn how to be a outside sales rep. It’s FT, M-F, paid hourly (and quite well – they make more than I did right out of college!) and so many candidates are scared because they’ve been burned by “marketing” or sales jobs where it’s 100% commission and little training. It sucks there are so many “sales” jobs out there that ruin it for those of us who have real sales jobs

          1. Joie*

            I was in a sales-based position before – decent salary but bonus/incentive was capped at 20% of monthly salary (monthly goal was a team goal too). It sucked because I was very good at sales (surprising even to myself!) but that even though I contribute at least 50% of that team goal everyone got paid the same… and those that have been around longer but did less still got more than me since 20% of their salary is heck of a lot higher than my entry level one.

            I wouldn’t even mind a sales position if it was a real one like you’ve mentioned. But truly these BS ones really make people shy away from sales positions.

          2. MegEB*

            I think I’ve mentioned this in comments before, but I was actually suckered into one of those shady sales/MLM schemes (selling life and Medicare insurance) for a few months, and it was absolutely awful. I was 22, fresh out of college, and very, very naive. It’s made me really wary of sales jobs, even ones that sound legitimate, because I keep having flashbacks to my old job.

          3. Lightly Salted*

            What boards do you post jobs on? Can you recommend sites that are more reputable than others for legitimate sales jobs?

            1. ashleyh*

              we post of all our jobs on our own company job page, linkedin, and usually either careerbuilder or monster. Indeed usually posts the jobs, too, but we don’t do it ourselves (indeed will troll websites and lift job postings and post them automatically sometimes).

              I would always stay away from craigslist sales jobs – not that there aren’t legitimate ones out there, but that it’s easy and free/extremely low cost, whereas will a site like linkedin the company has to pay a significant amount of money to post a job. If you’re a scammy company, you’re going to go for the free job boards, you know?

    3. BananaPants*

      My husband’s awful job from a couple of years back was sold to him in interviews as a marketing position and then an account manager position. It turned out to be retail cell phone sales for a small authorized reseller of a major wireless brand.

      He was feeling desperate for a job because I was due to give birth within a few weeks and he’d been unemployed for 4 months, and accepted the offer without checking up fully on the company. It was when he reported for training (out of town) 10 days after the baby was born that he found out they called all of their retail salespeople account managers! He found out with his first paycheck that the compensation was 100% commission, there was no PTO after all, and there were sales quotas (he was told the opposite during interviews), but they reassured him that surely someone with his background would be earning upwards of $70K/year.

      By the time they summarily fired him 10 months later for missing a monthly sales quota by $50, he was commuting 90+ minutes each way to work in kiosks in dying malls, working 50-60 hours a week on 100% commission, being encouraged by his supervisors to use unethical sales practices, and earning under $25K/year gross. It was obscene and today we still don’t know why we kept having him try to make a go of a crappy situation for absolutely no short or long term benefit.

      1. Lightly Salted*

        That is astonishing and awful. Fired for missing a quota by $50. Think of how much more money it costs to hire and train someone new. This is a really good example of why we need a workers bill of rights. I truly hope he has found something better.

    4. KH*

      Oh man I HATE when people do that at Home Depot. I wish everyone would refuse the interview and they’d have to change tactics.

      The Home Depot people usually start by saying something like “Do you own your own home?” – I’ll be standing in the kitchen sink aisle or something and say “no” just to get away… Ugh.

  8. Joie*

    With my recent job search I’ve definitely come across several horrible situations. Thank goodness I’ve learned to spot them in time (all thanks to this blog!) and gracefully bow out. This one is laughable:

    “Company” had 20+ positions open. I was contacted on a Friday night to schedule for an interview Saturday “because [they] are wrapping things up in [my] metro area.” I didn’t reply and got another call on Saturday morning… I consented to an interview time due to the high pressure tactics they kept using on the phone: “Are you sure you can’t do tomorrow?” “Monday is the latest we can schedule this.” “We cannot do anything before 6PM because we are booked.” “This would not look very good on your candidacy if you aren’t more flexible with your schedule.”

    I did some more research and found out it’s a door-to-door sales position being posed as a marketing management position. So I canceled my interview. Later that day I get a phone call from their “HR Recruiter” who wants to schedule me for 6PM that night (the same slot I canceled) so I asked her straight out if it’s legit or will I be selling AT&T U-verse door-to-door. She hem-hawed then pretended there was static on the line then hung up on me… Needless to say I never got another call from them.

    A bunch of other: group interview with instruction to “not show up more than 5 minutes before assigned time slot because there aren’t enough room for everyone to stand around waiting till they’re called;” a financial literacy positions that required I pay $150 for training classes; and even an unpaid non-profit that required I work a minimum 20-30 hours a week but they’re only open Mon-Fri 9-4 and if I am unable to do the minimum amount of hours to “not even bother.”

    1. AMT*

      That last one killed me. They might as well put up a sign that says, “We’re not going to pay you, but we’re also not going to respect your time and efforts! Call today and get nothing but horrible memories from your volunteership!”

      1. Joie*

        It was for a really good cause too! Granted I don’t know how well the non-profit is doing in their mission… I was job searching so that’s why I went in for the interview – but I thought they had weekend hours so that I can at least knock out about 16 hours but nope!

  9. Anon Accountant*

    I walked out of an interview once. The accounting manager called me in, proceeded to tell me he didn’t want to interview me but had to because my qualifications fit what they were looking for and proceeded to berate my public accounting experience. I stood up, thanked him for his time and told him I wouldn’t waste any more of his time.

    That company has very high turnover and is always hiring so they must be very difficult to work for. Bullet dodged.

    1. davey1983*

      I wonder if we interviewed with the same person? Several years ago I was interviewing for my first accounting job, and the guy was asking me some technical questions. I was answering them to the best of my ability (which was not much, considering I wouldn’t graduate for a couple of months at this point).

      The guy then interrupted me and angry told me that he had forgotten more about accounting than I knew about accounting. I was stunned and after a moment of trying to figure out what was going on, I said (in a very puzzled voice) that I was sure he did, and that I hadn’t meant to imply otherwise and I was sorry for doing so. The interviewer then proceeds to YELL at me for the next 20 minutes.

      I was young, and I just took it. Looking back, I wish I had just got up and left (which is how I would do it now).

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Wow it sure sounds like the same interviewer. I cut off my interviewer when he started getting out of control and left. This was in the Pittsburgh, PA area in 2010.

        20 minutes of yelling at a candidate?! Would’ve been a nightmare to work for.

        1. davey1983*

          No, it was in Oklahoma.

          It must be an accountant thing. I actually ended up working for the IRS and happened to run into him a few times after that auditing his clients. It turns out he was a jerk to everyone in his firm and his firm had (even for a public accounting firm) very high turn over.

          He was also considered to be a joke to the IRS agents in the area– he was incompetent and arrogant. Not a great combination.

      2. Bill*

        It’s nice to know I’m not the only one this has happened to. It wasn’t quite 20 minutes, but the two interviewers talked to me in abusive tone and said the most cruel things they could think of. I’m Bill and it’s the post about the 2-day job fair. It’s posted in Oct. 2015.

  10. KTB*

    To Alison’s point about another opportunity within the company–that definitely happened to me. I had to jump through approximately nineteen hoops for a position that I was very qualified for, but my interviewer wasn’t sure I had enough “analytical” experience. I ended up ultimately not getting the job, but I’m still eligible to interview for other positions at that company.

    Best of all, my original interviewer liked me so much that he recommended me for my current position (at a different company) about a year later. All in all, it was a blessing in disguise!

  11. Over the Pond*

    I’m curious as to whether group interviews are ever expected/normal in the US? I spent a significant part of my teens/early twenties in the US but moved back over here before I started looking for career type jobs.

    In the UK it’s pretty common for graduate programmes that hire multiple (sometimes hundreds or even thousands) of recent graduates in one shot to use group interviews. Not so much for the actual interview – that’s still usually done on an individual basis – but for interview tasks. When I was a new graduate, a couple of years ago, I applied to several of these programmes (and ended up being hired through one) and there were a lot of group tasks reminiscent of the activities on The Apprentice. This is considered normal here and applicants are generally told what the tasks will involve at the stage that they are invited to interview (i.e. before arriving) (although, not always!).

    1. Ad Astra*

      I’m sure it depends on the industry and the role, but I don’t think group interviews are very common in the U.S., and a surprise group interview would really throw me off.

    2. Charityb*

      Group interviews are common but it might be industry specific. People tend to gripe if they think they’re walking into a “normal” interview and it turns out to be some massive activity.

      It’s kind of like being invited to a sit-down dinner at a fancy restaurant and then it turns out to be a dance party. Are dance parties common? Yeah. Does that mean that people would be put off if they were “tricked” into attending one? Definitely a risk.

      1. Over the Pond*

        Yeah, in my experience it is normally explained in the interview invite what format the interview will take including how many group tasks there will be (although, often not what the tasks will involve). I did go to one interview where no mention of group tasks had come up in the invite and I was expecting two panel interviews and found myself in an Apprentice style interview day (I think they actually modeled it on that show – at various points during the day they gathered all the applicants together and announced who needed to gather their belongings and leave!)

    3. V2*

      I’m not sure how typical they are, but they’re used at my company to evaluate values. These interviews are for people applying for all kinds of positions, so there’s nothing related to skills or the positions themselves. Candidates that pass the group interview then go on to a traditional series of one-on-one interviews with the hiring manager, etc. We have candidates do a small group project, something like dropping an egg given some straws and tape, or put together a simple 15 second marketing pitch for our product. We don’t care how they do at the task, we just want to observe how they work together, do they speak up, do they listen to others’ input, etc.

      1. Over the Pond*

        This is exactly what a lot of these are designed to do for the graduate programmes, but they often test general skills too – writing skills, presenting skills, etc.

      2. Kyrielle*

        If that was my first interview with the company, and totally unrelated to the program, and it hadn’t been clearly explained up front, I’d withdraw my candidacy immediately and think y’all were loons (and tell all my friends about how bizarre it was). Even with an up-front explanation, I might decline to go through with it.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Unrelated to the position. Go team ‘type what your eyes glance over that looks vaguely similar to what you meant to say’. Or not.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’ve only encountered group “interviews” twice in the United States. The first was for seasonal retain jobs. The second was a pass/fail assessment given to a large group of recent college grads by the federal government. (I’ve heard that the gov’t now does online assessments for the same purpose.)

    5. Sarahnova*

      This is an assessment centre. It’s a standard tool used to assess a group of individuals either because you want to benchmark them or because you’re hiring multiple roles (as with graduate schemes).

      I’m a bit bewildered as to why so many of you are against them based on the description. It’s simply an individual interview plus a number of structured, scored activities which test your skills in practice. Applicants are typically briefed thoroughly on what the day will involve before they arrive.

      1. J*

        If you were in team “A” you would have gotten the position. If you were examined on your own merits using a standard method for all applicants, you would have gotten the position. Instead, you were on team “B”, and were dismissed with the rest of your “team” after an overall lesser performance against team “A”.

        A surprise party of “children’s field day” games to assess whether a person is a “team player” or “has motivated aspirations”, and to dismiss them after a team failure is quite poor. I can’t imagine the number of top people passed over because “Team B” couldn’t protect an egg, and the best person for the job goes home.

        Then again, if your company is churning this much butter… you probably don’t care if you have the best.

  12. Ruth (UK)*

    About 7 years ago I ended up doing a door-to-door job. I was hired alongside 20 people. I lasted 10 weeks and was the longest-lasting person from my group of hiring. I vowed to never do that type of job again.

    They’re quite sneaky with advertising sometimes and pretend not to be door to door. A little over a year later I ended up accidentally in another door-to-door interview. I went out all day with this person to ‘shadow’ them and presumably they hoped that this person would show me how non-awful this job really was and I’d be convinced to give it a go.

    Not wanting to be a horrid person on the ‘shadowing’ part I acted pleasantly all day and the person I shadowed gave me a great review to the interviewer. During the interview I tried very hard to come across as stupid and not sure I could do the job. I tried to flunk the interview without being used. I said things like:
    “I’m really shy and bad at talking to people”
    “I am not good at pressuring people”
    “I don’t like confrontations”

    The guy assured me over and over I’d be fine. I finally even through out, “I have done door to door before and I was completely awful. I got no sign ups and was eventually fired” and he STILL offered me the job!!!

    With nothing left to do I finally had to just decline. I was about 20 at the time and felt quite awkward about doing it. I had to say it many times as I was kind of trying to say it too nicely and he kept being like “just give it a try and see how it goes” and I was like “I really don’t think I want to do this job…” and FINALLY got out of the room.


    1. Bill*

      Door to door jobs are a turnoff for a lot of applicants. They probably couldn’t find enough people willing to take the job, so they had to offer it to everybody.

  13. AnonAcademic*

    In college I fell for the Cutco/Vector Marketing scam where your “interview” is a group sales pitch. Afterwards they met with us one on one and the “interviewer” asked something like “So, is selling our product something you think you can do?” and I just said “No, I’m not interested in sales jobs” and excused myself.

    I had another bizarre “job” where I was hired to work in catering after a cursory interview, but I needed to buy my own uniform and show up to the office to essentially beg for shifts until I proved to be trustworthy enough to be put on the schedule regularly. After coming by once to ask about shifts for the job I’d in theory been hired to do and being turned away I decided to “quit” by not coming back.

    1. Allison*

      I fell for it too, and I even took the job because I thought “why not? it’s a way to get money” and since I’d been struggling to find a summer job I felt pressure to take whatever I could get, even if it wasn’t ideal. But when I got home my parents convinced me to back out when it was clear I wouldn’t be able to get to all the sales calls since I didn’t have my own car, so I called and said I wasn’t gonna do it after all.

      As I said in another thread, it’s a common misconception that anyone can do sales. I know this isn’t true, and I hate the idea that people who can’t get hourly jobs should settle for whatever commission-based nonsense some scammy quack offers them.

    2. boop*

      Yes! Mine was even a one-on-one interview and it was the shortest interview ever. Thing is, they never actually TELL you what the job is or who they are, they just book interviews with literally anyone and you have to drag it out of them that the job is carrying knives to strangers’ homes. As a sheltered kid, I was pretty flabbergasted at the idea and left. I don’t know what they were expecting.

      I didn’t even get to the part of the conversation where I assume they require you to purchase their expensive products beforehand… you know, as if a teenager has any money at all.

    3. Courtney*

      I also fell for the Cutco/Vector interview scam until they told me what the actual job was (AFTER the interview!!), and when I refused the job selling knives they offered me a job as the receptionist answer phone calls from befuddled teenagers wondering what the job ad was for. I got fired for being honest and telling callers what the job was. Ugh.

  14. K.*

    The domino effect happened to me, in a group interview for a MLM scheme disguised as a marketing job. One person was like “This isn’t what I thought it was” and left. I followed (I said something like “I thought the role focused more on marketing strategy”), and within about a minute the entire group (about a dozen of us) was outside, shaking our heads in annoyance.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      My husband fell for one of those once. He had responded to an ad for an IT job, the person next to him thought it was marketing, someone else thought it was event planning, and so on. Nope, it was all just the same MLM scheme.

      1. K.*

        This was in the thick of the recession – either winter 2008 or 2009, I remember it was snowing – so I think the interviewer was truly surprised that we didn’t stay. But the powwow outside afterward was kind of fun, sharing our job hunt stories.

  15. lawsuited*

    I wish I had known about AAM when I walked out of an interview a few years ago!

    I was doing in-firm interviews after on-campus interviews, and if anyone is familiar with the practice, you know I was exhausted from doing multiple interviews per day.

    I walked into the interview room. My interviewer didn’t stand to greet me. He leaned way back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, and said “I don’t have any questions for you, so your job for the next 30 minutes is to impress me.”

    I didn’t even sit down. I just said, “No, it isn’t. Thanks for your time, but I have another interview to get to.” AND LEFT.

    1. Not Karen*

      Yikes; Good for you!

      Reminds of that one phone “interview” I had where I was supposed to recite my answers to exactly three questions they had e-mailed me in advance. That was it.

    2. CM*

      I love this! You are awesome. I went through that process too and while most of the interviews were fine, some of the partners were so arrogant that I walked out vowing to never work for that firm.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Right? You’d think the firm would be smart enough to hide those guys until after you’d accepted an offer.

        1. lawsuited*

          Exactly, most firms take pains to paint a rosy picture before the ensnare you, so if this guy is the rosy picture? Run.

          1. Green*

            Unfortunately he may also just be the guy who is an alum of your school.

            As an FYI, law students should definitely tell career services if an on-campus interviewer is extremeely rude and particularly if they say anything that discriminates on the basis of anything in the school’s non-discrimination policy. Awful interviewers (and sometimes their entire firm) have indeed been asked not to come back. I worked with a partner–an alum from my school–who I only met after being hired, not because the firm hides him but because the school banned him.

            1. lawsuited*

              This was actually an in-firm interview, but you’re right, he may just have been chosen because he went to the same law school as I did.

    3. hayling*

      What a jerk. Glad you were able to think on your feet! I’m sure he had to pick his jaw up off the floor.

  16. Elizabeth West*

    I’ve done this. Twice, in my last job search.

    1. I was interviewing with an office (I don’t remember what it was) and the interviewer started talking about benefits. She mentioned they didn’t have health insurance. The pay wasn’t high enough to purchase it on my own (and this was before ACA), so that was a deal breaker. I said that I was really looking for something with that benefit. She said she totally understood and we ended the interview.

    2. An interview for a dental office position required candidates to show up to a large hotel near where I live. I thought Hmm, okay, panel interview, or a small group thing, and maybe they don’t have a conference room at the office. I’ve had group interviews before–usually a panel and about ten or so people. NBD. It was at five-thirty, which I thought was weird, but I went.

    Nuh uh. The building had a meeting auditorium. Two very nice women at a table outside it handed me an application and directed me to my seat. Along with what must have been a hundred people. For an entry-level clerical position in a dental office. I stood up before anything got started and went back out to the table, gave them back the blank app, and politely withdrew my application.

    I figured either they had NO idea how to screen applications, had no clue how to handle interviewing, and/or I was about to listen to some kind of sales presentation. NOPE.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Wow. They needed to learn some basic candidate screening for sure. Then narrow a pool of finalists.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The first one wasn’t awful, but it’s okay to end the interview if you know you’re not going to accept the job. But that mass meeting thing? Whoa.

        Part of me wishes now that I’d stayed just to see what they were going to say.

  17. Sandy*

    I have walked out of three interviews. Oddly, in two of the cases, they were seemingly so impressed that I would walk out that they kept calling me back, trying to hire me!

    Yeah, that was awkward. “But I don’t think it would be a good fit.” “Really? Because we think it would be.” “Well, I don’t.”

    1. Sandy*

      Oh boy. I just remembered a fourth.

      The position had two supervisors, and they spent the interviewing bickering, sniping, and generally fighting with one another.

      I walked out, and they sent a very nice note afterwards telling me that I was their 2nd choice but they ultimately decided to Ho with someone else.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Probably for the best they decided to Ho with someone else because you seem too good for that Hoing job ;)

  18. Adam*

    I once applied for a job that I thought I was going to be a visiting assistance person for an adult who was either disabled or undergoing physical therapy, because that was what was stated in the job ad.

    I got to the interview and it turns out the job was actually to be a…….I have no idea what the right title would be, but essentially you would accompany one child who had special needs from the time he left his home, all through the school day, and then back home. You’d essentially be with the child almost nonstop for a full school day plus travel time as a sort of assistant teacher/guardian.

    When this began to dawn on me as the interview progressed I had no idea how to respond. NEVER in a million years would I have knowingly applied for this job because not only is it not a job I’d be interested in doing it isn’t something I had any experience doing. But I wasn’t sure what to say to bring it up in the interview especially since it was a group interview with two other candidates. Plus I was DESPERATE for a job at the time, so I kept quiet and went along with the interview in hopes that maybe I’d warm up to the idea.

    Then I had to undergo a test of one of the interviewers simulating an experience where I would be working with the child trying to get him to do a learning task (take blue poker chips and place them in a bowl). So I had one man pretending to be a child with special needs wandering around the room while I tried to be patient and get him to sit down as two other interviewers watched. It was one of the most awkward exchanges of my life.

    I had no clue what I was doing and thought it should be painfully obvious…and yet to my complete shock they said they wanted to bring me back for another interview which would lead to the job. I almost took it too, because I was seriously broke and had job search woes for a long time (this was in 2008 or so). Ultimately I declined because I knew I was not the type of person who could learn to do this job and like it and that would be enormously unfair to the kid. Made for a good story at least.

    1. lawsuited*

      Oh man, the visual of you standing by while an adult man pretending to be a child with special needs wanders around the room refusing to put blue poker chips into a bowl, while two other adults watch, has me LOLing in my office. Why did they think that would be a realistic exercise?

          1. Green*

            Presenting a hypothetical >>> adults pretending to be children with special needs. It seems pretty disrespectful to the population served to pretend to be them.

            1. Observer*

              So what are they supposed to do? Pull kids out of class?

              Role playing can be extremely useful. Role playing pretty much always requires someone to pretend to be someone else – either a specific person, or a certain role. That’s not inherently disrespectful, as long as the person playing the role is actually doing so with reasonable accuracy.

      1. Observer*

        Because it’s actually what happens, assuming that the guy knows what he’s doing.

        The job is perfectly legitimate, and pays reasonably without requiring a lot of training. The term used (at least here in NYC) is either para or shadow.

        1. Adam*

          Yep. I have no reason to think they were anything but legit. My deer-in-the-headlights response was totally on me being unexpectedly put in a place I didn’t intend to be. They were a national organization with their main branch being in another state. I think the home branch handled the initial hiring work which probably explains the misconception of the job posting.

          I have a bachelors degree in psychology, which I’m pretty sure is the only reason they brought me in initially. I think the test was just make sure I wouldn’t flip out once things started getting frustrating.

          1. Observer*

            You are probably correct about why they did the test. What you described sounds a LOT like what I hear from people in that job and teachers who have such children in their classrooms. You need a huge, maybe infinite, store of patience when dealing with children who have a hard time focusing, are hugely distract-able and in general have major problems with being able to comply with classroom and general age appropriate behavior norms.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, the visual was pretty funny to me too. And then I wondered what the interviewers would have done if you had started cussing at the “kid” or something. But that’s just because it’s late and I have a sick sense of humor.

    2. Spiral Noodles*

      This reminds me of one of the characters from the unbreakable kimmie schmitt. The child wasn’t special needs though.

  19. Lia*

    I have a few:

    1. What was advertised as a risk analyst position with a major insurance carrier (their spokes…animal? is a lizard) instead turned out to be cold-calling people to convince them to switch their car insurance. I pointed out that the posting had been for a completely different position, and was told “oh, we promote people from the call center all the time into office jobs!”. Excused myself and left.

    2. Head of security for a retail store: was told I should “focus on watching people of X ethnicity” because “they will rob us blind”. Said “I don’t think this is going to work out”, got up, and walked out.

    3. Some door-to-door vacuum selling fly-by-night. I slipped out the back once they started showing a video of “how to close the deal”.

  20. Hard Working Millenial*

    I wish I had done this at a recent interview! The interviewer spent about 25 minutes ranting about millennials and their ‘horrible work ethic’ and how back in his day you stayed all night to get the job done (the whole time guising it as a question about my own work ethic. As if I’m going to say that I’m lazy?) He wasn’t even that old… Needless to say I withdrew immediately after getting home but looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just walk out.

  21. A Bug!*

    To be clear, I’m not encouraging you to walk out of interviews willy-nilly,

    I disagree with this. All interviews should be walked out of in as willy-nilly a fashion as possible.

  22. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    I missed the being held hostage story. Was there ever an update on it? I searched and didn’t find anything. I wonder if he found out anymore info on the company.

    1. Biff*

      IIRC, the OP of that story wrote in the comments that after about 30 minutes, they finally wheedled their ID from the receptionist and left.

  23. look alive*

    I was in an interview once and the interviewer (third in queue) clearly did not want to be there. While I was waiting in a fishbowl-type room for her to arrive, I was watching this woman at her cube, reading a novel–it’s been years since I’ve seen someone do that during the workday. She can see me in there; did a little half-wave at one point. Fifteen minutes in, she gets up, puts her book down and comes in–she was my 3rd interviewer. Huge sigh and sits down and says she needs to read my resume; she hasn’t had a chance (!!!). Five (FIVE) minutes later she starts quizzing me, and as I’m answering, she nods her head and I finish, only to realize she’s asleep. I had no idea what to do, so I got up (not quietly) and left to get someone and after they wake her by coughing, she asks if I have any questions for her. So I ask her what she thinks of the company–“giirrrrrrrl you do NOT want to get me started on this place.”. That should’ve been my clue–I lasted 3 months before leaving; worst experience ever and one interview I should’ve followed my instincts that were screaming at me to walk out and keep walking (but I was so worried she wasn’t going to wake back up so I went back). Lesson learned.

      1. look alive*

        Yes. The second was my first day…my new boss is walking me to lunch and notices me scratching my arms and asks why. I mention that I had a huge overgrown bush at the end of my driveway that I had pruned that weekend and had a reaction to the scratches…he puts his hand up and says “Stop. Did you just tell me you have an overgrown bush?”…starts snickering.

        It went downhill from there. I am all about following the gut reaction now.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          Sorry if this made you uncomfortable at the time but I just laughed out loud at my desk. Immature but hilarious statement without a doubt.

      2. BRR*

        I’m playing devils advocate but I’ve worked at good places where a terrible employee “hates” it. At my last job, which overall was good, this person constantly complained how awful it was and how she was out of there any day now. She had been in the same position there for 35 years!

        That doesn’t sound like the case here but certain people will hate any job.

  24. Blurgle*

    I only walked out of an interview once, back when I was in high school, at a little variety/furniture store in my hometown. The interviewer – the owner – held the interview right at the till, and kept going on and on about how I had better never bring my boyfriend to work or talk too much on the phone, all while ringing up orders for his customers. I think I said something about not dating before I walked out the door.

    I clearly recall one of the customers ferociously glaring at me; I remember the angry look in her eyes to this day. I have no idea why.

  25. Ms. Anne Thrope*

    Nuclear apocalypse???

    “Oh I wouldn’t have any problem with that. The food would last me plenty long once I’d killed off all the others.”

    exit stage left.

  26. Bunny Purler*

    I may have recounted this story before, of the time I went to an interview which was actually a 2 day thing, where they had an internal candidate (who was actually a very pleasant chap). All through the event, they were saying things to him like ‘this will be your desk’ and ‘this will be the first thing you’ll be working on’. It was fairly obvious I wasn’t really a contender, and I had only been invited at the last minute anyway. In the interview, which was the last event of the 2nd day, I was tired and fed up. I wanted to go home. The interview board weren’t paying any attention to my answers, until I stood up and told them that we really shouldn’t be wasting one another’s time any longer, and that if I left now, I could catch an earlier train home. This was back in, oh, 1993 I think, but I still recall with some satisfaction how they suddenly actually noticed me, as a person, for the first time.

    What astonishes me now was that I did it at all. It was like an out of body experience, where I just opened my mouth and this stuff came out. Normally I wouldn’t say boo to a goose, especially then (I was 23).

    1. Joie*

      Ooooh this is awful! I can’t believe they did that to you. But I’m so happy you reacted the way you did!

  27. ComputerGeekMom*

    I once applied for a position that was the exact same job duties and title as a previous position that I had held for 3 years at a different university. I was 5 minutes into a one-on-one interview with the Registrar of a college when her desk phone rang. She spent the next 30 minutes on the phone with her nanny and acted as if I was not in the room. She would ask, What is he doing now? Oh, that is so cute. Let me talk to him. Put the phone put to him. I figured out while she was on the phone that it was only her 2nd or 3rd day back to work after maternity leave. I was so uncomfortable and wanted to leave, but I really wanted the job. She finally got off the phone and without any other questions for me or even to ask me if I had questions, she proceed to tell me that I was very under qualified for the position and would not be a good fit. I should have followed my gut and left 2 minutes into the phone call.

    1. Biff*

      I think situations like this are what trigger such suspicion and dislike for new parents in workplaces. One or two instances of this, and I can see someone losing their rational touch on the topic.

  28. Michelle Glauser*

    I like having a go-to sentence for cases like this, but I also wonder: will I ever get to the point where I would be able to say, “This is ridiculous and I think you ought to re-consider how you interview. Call me when you have a new practice in place”?

  29. Mirilla*

    This actually happened to me earlier this year. They asked “what would your ideal job be” and everything I said (quiet environment, few distractions, etc..) was the opposite of what they were offering. It was a fast paced, high stress, overtime required, crammed office, loud, constant distractions type of situation. Oh, they had the two way radio on all day so you could hear the warehouse conversations. People walked in and out all day talking loudly.

    I said “I don’t think this would be a good fit for me.” They agreed. Interview over. It was actually not that hard. I thanked them for their time and they commented that it’s good to go out there and look around (I was and am employed). I took it as interview experience.

  30. SunnyLibrarian*

    I did for a phone interview; I just realized the move would not be a good fit. When I stopped the interview and told her that I didn’t think it was a great fit, the lady seemed upset and asked me if I wanted to sleep on it. I did not.

  31. Kara*

    A few years ago I was interviewing for a highly technical position with a panel of 3 people, one of whom was the developer I’d be working alongside. I’d gotten some good solid questions and returned what I thought were also good solid answers. Suddenly the developer leans forward as though he’s going to ask me the most important question of the whole interview and says: “If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?”

    I sat there stunned for a moment and then said “I’m not sure how that relates to the position I’d be filling.”

    The developer stared at me for a few minutes and then sat back and didn’t say another word the whole time.

    I heard later that the other two people STRONGLY wanted to offer me the position, but the developer said that he flat out wouldn’t work with me because I appeared “uncooperative” and “egotistical”.

      1. Kara*

        Hah. Not even close. :)

        Seriously I don’t know how I popped out with that sentence. It was a complete knee jerk reaction, although I’m pretty sure it was the best possible response, in hindsight. I had just spent SO much time preparing for this interview from a technical standpoint and making sure I knew their product inside and out, so to be hit from left field with that kind of question totally threw me.

        1. Pineapple Incident*

          Oh it was definitely the best response- people need to be told when their questions don’t make any sense, or they’ll just keep asking them.

    1. Crabby PM*

      Most good tech organizations have explicitly banned these kind of trick/joke/gimmicky questions.

  32. Spice for this*

    AAM – Thank you for this!
    It’s perfect timing since I will be interviewing soon and this is really good information to have if I need to use it.

  33. EmmAreEmm*

    Hah I interviewed for a job once and then was called a couple days later because the lab manager interviewing me had left and could I come interview with the new one? (I did and ended up turning down the offer and from what I’ve heard from people who’ve worked there that was a good decision). A year or so later I interview for another job and there was the lab manager I’d originally interviewed with!

    But I have walked out of a couple interviews recently. One was a pretty basic fit not right (I thought the job was primarily working with an instrument I quite like working with but turns out it was just using it every now and then but mostly bench work, I still went through most of the interview but since it was with multiple people but the last one was the lab manager and I was just like I’m sorry but I’m really looking for something where I get to do more work with this instrument) but the other was because the interviewer was incredibly rude.

    I have pretty unconventional hair right now which my recruiter knows about and I asked him not to send me anywhere where it would be an issue and for the most part it’s been fine but I walked into this interview and the manager took one look at me and made such a face and then was just so rude and condescending. She asked me how something worked and I took a breath to order my thoughts and she jumped right in with “or is that too much for you? Have you even worked with this before?” I was finally like I’m sorry it doesn’t seem like this is the right fit, I wish you luck finding someone to fill the role.

  34. Erik*

    I’ve had many interviews over the years where I’ve walked out for a variety of reasons. In no particular order:
    1) When it’s clear that the job was misrepresented to me
    2) When it’s clear that I’m not a match for the job
    3) Lack of respect for talent
    4) When the people interviewing me are a bunch of jerks whom I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with, much less work with

  35. EmmaBlake*

    Right after I graduated undergrad last year, I applied for a Public Relations Assistant position. I was called for an interview. It all seemed great, completely legit, everything. They called me for a second interview, but wanted to meet at Costco so I could “see one of the events” the company put on. I thought it made sense. If I got the job, my responsibility would be helping to manage the clients – who put on these events – reputations, right? So I get to Costco. They have this booth set up, selling some kind of car cleaner/get rid of scratches ‘magic’ gel. They proceeded to run around Costco giving everyone raffle tickets and telling them to come to the booth to get a free gift. Once everyone shows up, they start a sales pitch to sell this $300 car/scratch cleaner. The free gift (if you stayed the entire 30ish minutes of the presentation)? A shammy.

    Turns out, this was like the entire job. You had to drive into the office, have a “team meeting” then drive all around to Costcos across a two state radius, in your own car and gas on you. There was some ridiculously low base rate than an 18% commission. You’re all shocked, I know. I left the interview, not thinking anything of it, and two days later was called for a THIRD interview. I declined. They did call again to ask why I was declining ‘for their records.’ I told them I didn’t apply for nor want a sales job and they tried to convince me it wasn’t one. After a few seconds, I repeated again that I wasn’t interested and hung up the phone. Hate that companies do this! If I wanted a sales job, I’d apply for a sales job!

  36. 'Cause it's all about money, ain't a damn thing funny / You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey*

    The world sure has changed.

    A lot of this advice seems meant for another time — for young people today, there are only two times that you can safely walk away from an interview: a) when you have a secure and stable job that you are unlikely to ever be fired or laid off from (working for the family firm, some types of government work, etc.); when you are honestly and truly “just looking” and b) if you have a paid-off house and enough savings to last you through an early retirement (i.e. you are old or rich or both).

    The cold hard truth is that for the average person in the U.S., if you don’t have a job, as soon as your savings run out you are facing eviction or foreclosure. That means you have two choices, and only two choices; take whatever shit is thrown at you with a smile, or be out on the street and caught in the downward spiral that at best removes you from the running for any career-track work, and at worst can make you permanently unemployable.

    1. Qwerty*


      You seem to be living in a different reality. Your advice is out of touch, and quite frankly , bizarre. The world you describe does not match my reality, or that of the many commentators here who have described doing exactly as Alison recommends here. I think you may be describing your own fears and limitations, nothing more.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I beg to differ. Thinking about HellJob’s awfulness, I wish I could have exited that interview. There were a couple of red flags, but in my desperation, I ignored them (number one was the interviewer talking trash about the last person who held the position). Instead, I took the job and WASTED two months of my life when I could have been interviewing for far better jobs and even working someplace that wasn’t completely insane.

      Nobody is permanently unemployable–just look at all the stories on this website of completely incompetent idiots who still manage to get a job!

      1. Catbert*

        “Nobody is permanently unemployable–just look at all the stories on this website of completely incompetent idiots who still manage to get a job!”

        Likely due to their class. That’s the caveat, if you are from the right class (yes, even in America), you have to be a miraculously major screw-up for things to not turn out well for you; anything below that and you are golden. The reason Pointy Haired Boss from Dilbert is funny is because a world that allows him to exist is too sad not to laugh at.

    3. Q*

      I agree with you. The people we are hiring now are only here because they can’t find anything else. We hire fresh college grads at $12 an hour (and we are one of the biggest asset servicing firms in the world.) I actually feel sorry of them that this is the best they can do but it is the new reality. Our latest hire interned here for two summers, graduated last May, but couldn’t find anything in 6 months of looking so she finally signed on here. The last offer we made was to a temp who turned it down because he was making more as a temp!

      These days if you want to live in a house, you take what is available. The days of a dream job are long gone. You do what you can to survive.

      1. MegEB*

        So, to be completely honest, the only thing I see you describing in your comment is a company that doesn’t treat its employees very well. If temps are turning down your offers because you are paying that low, that’s not indicative of a widespread trend, that’s just evidence that your specific company isn’t good to work for.

        As a recent-ish grad, I know from personal experience that the job market is really tough out there, and there are plenty of issues that plague job seeker. But we see evidence in this blog all the time of people who find their “dream job”, or at least content with what they do. People write in with happy updates, commenters share their job experiences, and so on and so forth. I think painting such a bleak picture of the job market is a) creating a false idea of what to expect, and b) discouraging people from wanting or expecting better.

        Also, if your company is internationally known, they should be paying recent hires better than $12/hour, so shame on them.

        1. Catbert*

          It sounds like what they meant was, ” The last offer [of permanent employment] we made was to a temp who turned it down because he was making more as a temp!” rather than that they offered someone a temp job which they refused for a higher-paying temp job.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      I’m pretty sure the world has always worked like this – you need a job to pay the bills unless you’re independently wealthy.

      But if you’re in a situation where you are unlikely to get the job and it’s clear by the interviewers’ behavior, preserve your dignity and go.

    5. 221 Baker Street*

      I’ve met a lot of horrible people who just make up stuff on their CVs and they get jobs no matter how crazy or abusive they are to people. By no means does this guarantee they won’t be found out eventually and be blacklisted. I recommend doing what some have recommended when walking into an office for an interview. Looking at how people at the company interact and how the company is organized is a great way to check out the employer and see if they are worth working for.

      For example, a meth addict got hired through church the employer attended and he was known to cheat on his wife (and she on her husband). When the meth addict screwed up the company’s books and was arrested I was to blame somehow when I didn’t even work in the same department. If you were paying attention walking in you’d see burlap hanging on the walls as country ghetto decoration. Employees who were walking around angry or in fear. The building was in horrible disrepair but because I needed a job I took it and regretted it. I did learn as much as I could before I left and when I turned in my resignation I had that lunatic scream at me and threaten to kill me.

      Sure, you may have to take a job you don’t like but if people disgusting can get work you can too. I get the impression that you’ve been through several negative experiences and I get it. You get tired and frustrated when you see people getting jobs they obviously didn’t earn or aren’t qualified to do. Keep looking and you’ll find a job that is a better fit, and keep looking even after you’re hired. I do that because you never know when you may need another job and you can also network as well. You can go to conventions in the field you have no experience in because you can find out how to fast track an entry level application if/when you chose to switch fields.

      Even with every horrible experience I’ve had, I have learned from it, shared information in the community (my specialty I work in), and make sure I help others. There is no way you can really be permanently unemployable, but you may have trouble looking in the wrong market. Change your approach and get back out there. I wish you the best.

  37. Lisa P*

    I’ve dealt with plenty of rude interviewers, but the only time I ever cut an interview short was with a recruiter who was trying to push me into giving my salary history. I gave her my salary target but she continued to harass me and even suggested the employer could take legal action against me if I didn’t, which seemed ridiculous. I couldn’t get her to give me more info about the role either, she kept crazily sticking to her agenda. I just got fed up with her, said it didn’t seem like a good fit, and left. It was such a waste of time.

    Aside from that, I’ve had experiences that I’ll never put up with again in the future. To name a few: interviewer is more than 15 minutes late (they usually turn out to be jerks), interviewer doesn’t seem to know anything about me (reading my resume in front of me for the first time, not knowing anything about my qualifications), and interviewer lets slip that I don’t have a chance (one recently started a question with “So if, for some reason (with cynicism), we hired you for this position….” and that was early in the interview so either they made a snap judgment about me or had someone else in mind). Why do so many hiring managers insist on wasting the time of the people they’re interviewing?

    1. KH*

      The interviewer for the job I am in now was at least 10 minutes late for my interview. Also, nobody was at reception so I actually had to go around the office asking if anyone knows where he might be.

      Turns out he had a good reason for being late – things were really busy because they needed to hire people!

    2. KH*

      The interviewer for the job I am in now was at least 10 minutes late for my interview. Also, nobody was at reception so I actually had to go around the office asking if anyone knows where he might be.

      Turns out he had a good reason for being late – things were really busy because they needed to hire people!

      Oh, and it’s a great job. The pay could be little better but I’m learning in a few months what would take years in some other job.

    3. 221 Baker Street*

      Your experience reminded me of one that made me reply with one of my backhanded compliments. You take time out of your job hunt to go in and talk to people for a job you want only to be met with disrespectful behavior. When someone has the stupidity to question me in person during the interview with this:
      “After reading your qualifications for this job, I can see you’re overqualified so I want to know if you’re serious about applying for this job by telling me how you would be the best fit for our small budget.”

      1. The jerks who ask this stupid question usually ask other illegal/unethical questions.
      2. They have lied about the pay or omitted it on purpose, which can also mean the job has high turnover with unrealistic compensation.
      3. The idiot interviewing you is typically the person who isn’t serious about their position.

      Despite me politely telling them that whether or not I have small children is not relevant to the job tasks I flat out refused after the interviewer’s rude goading and then she dropped that nasty bomb. “Well I can see that in this case you’re under qualified for this position and I’m going to save you from wasting any more of my time by leaving.” I am so angry when people waste my time like that. I answered the phone when they called for an interview, filled out the stupid resume as well as adding a cover letter, filled out a redundant application, jumped through hoop after hoop only to be insulted to my face about whether or not I “wanted the job” by doing all this and refusing to answer discriminatory questions not relevant to the responsibilities of the position.
      I’ve also denied filling out the salary components too, since it’s not really their business and most companies do it to pay you even less than you made before.

  38. The Bimmer Guy*

    I wish I had known this a year ago. I worked with a recruiter to get an interview for a major energy company. I was told that it was was front and back-end web development, with basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL, etc. But it actually involved massaging Microsoft SharePoint sites. SharePoint is enterprise-level, and, like most things Microsoft, is known for being specialized, finicky and bloated, and I hate working with it…which is why I know very little about it. I sat through the entire interview and felt stupid when I had to hem and haw my way through the interviewer’s questions and practical exercises.

    Afterward, I did (politely) let the recruiter know that there was a major disconnect between how the job was portrayed and what it actually was.

    1. BeenThere*

      Oh yeah that recruiter would be on my naughty list. As a Software Engineer (and in Energy) I highly reccomend have recruiters tell you the following before you even schedule any phone calls:
      – Who uses the software and the main functions of the software being developed
      – Technology being used to create the software including version e.g. Language, Operating System, Database
      This filters out about 90% of the jobs I get contacted for as I have very specific things I will not work with.

  39. Lizzy*

    I recently interviewed for a position with an association for medical professionals. The first few rounds with the HR reprensative went well and she was extremely pleasant. However, when I got to the manager I would be working with, things soured pretty quickly. Besides the fact that we didn’t click from the get-go, he came into the interview sullen from a previous meeting. He then ranted on and on about the Board, how they were preventing him from doing his job, how the professionals this association was representing can’t get behind current technology, and how he had such a great track record with marketing in the medical field yet this job was wasting his talents.

    He knew right away that he wasn’t going to hire me so I think he took the opportunity to use me as a sympathetic ear. I was dying to get out of there, but since he didn’t stop ranting, I couldn’t find a moment to decline proceeding further. In hindsight, I should have done it after the first few questions when I read his disinterest in me. I didn’t realize he was going to rant THAT LONG!

      1. Mabel*

        I always feel like I need to wait for other people to pause long enough to signal that they’re through talking (in order to not be rude), but then I end up listening to the non-stop talkers forever. I think I need to try what Elizabeth does.

  40. Jillyan*

    Oh man, I have had so many horrible interview’s that I should have walked out of. Where do I begin?
    Door #1: I interviewed with a temp agency that made me fill out a 12 page, front and back, application, followed by a 1 hour wait for a delayed interviewer. Did I walk out? I was at the start of my career and didn’t know better.
    Door #2: I waited exactly 1.5 hours for an interviewer to meet with me only for stop when she saw me in the waiting area, stare at me, ask me who I was, and demand to know why I hadn’t told her I had arrived. I was gobsmacked, and said as politely as I could that I had informed her secretary I had arrived for my interview. I even followed up once or twice to make sure I didn’t need to reschedule. The secretary forgot to inform her manager. The interview lasted all of ten minutes and she didn’t want to reschedule as she thought I should have been more assertive in finding her. Sure.
    Door #3: I emailed a pretty well-known temp agency on a Friday afternoon, received an email Saturday at 6AM asking me to come in on Monday. I came in, met with the recruiter who took one look at my resume and said “What’s special about you? I have people from (company that had been investigated that year for fraud) and (another company that had a huge scandal and had to lay off many employees) that made 6 figures. You just graduated.” That’s it. Barely 4 minutes. No advice. I wondered if he had even read my resume and if he had only called me in to berate me.
    Obviously these were years ago, but it really sucks that they don’t teach you in college somewhere that it’s okay to speak up for yourself. Only one of those scenarios had a company I wanted to work for, but that company ended up being exactly as disorganized as you’d imagine.
    It’s tough being a job seeker. It makes me appreciate good interviewers, even if I don’t end up getting the job.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “The interview lasted all of ten minutes and she didn’t want to reschedule as she thought I should have been more assertive in finding her.”

      I hope she steps on a Lego.

  41. kdizzle*

    I should’ve walked out on an interview, but was too shocked and scared to do it. It started off fine…the interviewer asked me to tell them about myself. Halfway through explaining a little about my relevant work experience he cut me off and said, “Stop right there. I see that you’re trying to control the interview. Let me clue you in to the power dynamic; I’m the hiring manager. Your interview has 55 minutes remaining.”

    I just…froze. I didn’t know what to say. I think they were trying a weird “see how I react under pressure” but it was a terribly uncomfortable 55 minutes. It was a good position in a high-flying organization, but I could’ve NEVER worked for someone like that. Ick.

    1. Jillyan*

      Oh hell no.
      I will never understand how people like that end up being managers and higher up. From what I’ve seen, those people are rarely good at their jobs and seek pleasure in bullying. You dodged a pumpkin sized bullet there.

  42. Dasha*

    I wish I would have read AAM back when I was younger because I once got stuck with an interviewer who ended up yelling at me, berating me, slamming his fists down, slamming the door (long story, the guy was freakin’ nutso). I feel like the interviewer was particularly abusive because I was young then. I’ve been on weird interviews before but this guy was on a whole other level and just plain mean. I think also, it was such a shock! Since I was new to the working world, I thought most everyone behaved professionally (haha, yeah I know). I think young professionals should read the stories posted here and understand that people are crazy and yes you can excuse yourself and just walk out, you don’t have to stay out of etiquette. The interview is supposed to put everyone in their best light including the employer if they’re already acting off it’s a huge red flag!!!

    In my case, I was able to maintain my composure and at the end the interviewer said something like I’m surprised I didn’t make you cry. :-/ I really regret not standing up early on and dropping the AAM line, “this seems strangely adversarial I think I’ll excuse myself” I wish I would have known better!!!

  43. John*

    I can’t remember ever walking out of an interview, but there was one that I didn’t mind leaving when it was over! I wasn’t seriously job hunting, but I liked the job ad I saw, so I applied. It was for a corporate trainer position, and the interviewer was someone I had trained previously. I remembered that she had been a know-it-all in class, but I don’t have a problem with that because sometimes when people are learning something new, they feel “dumb” and want to show that they already know something. I give those folks plenty of opportunities to “show off” in class, but I did remember her as being more annoying than most. Anyway, when I walked into her office for the interview, I got a negative vibe from her right away, but we did the interview. At the end, I showed her my “portfolio” of training materials – it’s a small binder with various written materials I had created, along with a few glowing course evaluations. She then accused me of lying about not doing a serious job search because she didn’t believe that I would have a binder like that just handy and ready to use. She assumed I spent all kinds of time on it, which I did, but for a previous job search, and it wasn’t a big deal to replace old material with new. I thought that was the weirdest thing to accuse me of lying about. I think she just didn’t like me and maybe didn’t feel like that was a good enough reason to reject me for the position.

  44. Mimmy*

    In fact, look at it from the employer’s side: Employers cut short interviews all the time when it becomes clear that it’s not the right match.

    Yup!! Been there, done that. I once interviewed at an early intervention agency (I think through the county health department) for a social work position. Me being naive, I didn’t fully understand that this would probably involve field work….I can’t drive due to a vision impairment. I told the interviewer that I don’t drive. The interview was over in 2 minutes flat!! Very embarrassing.

    1. Mimmy*

      ^^ Formatting fail!! This part is mine:

      Yup!! Been there, done that. I once interviewed at an early intervention agency (I think through the county health department) for a social work position. Me being naive, I didn’t fully understand that this would probably involve field work….I can’t drive due to a vision impairment. I told the interviewer that I don’t drive. The interview was over in 2 minutes flat!! Very embarrassing.

  45. Barb*

    I was in a situation like this. Ended with the hiring manager telling me about how the demands of the job and pressure to produce was keeping her from feeling like she could have a family, which is what she really wanted, and that she wasnt sure that the possibility of making a lot of money was worth her mental health or her morals. This was after I had basically been insulted by the previous 2 interviewers. I didn’t walk out because it was just so fascinating! I told my friend who somehow managed to work there that I predicted that woman was on the verge of a nervous break down. And lo and behold, about a month later, she left her office one day and never came back after suffering a mental breakdown.

  46. Crabby PM*

    1) I don’t have my graduation dates on my resume for either undergrad or Master’s. Interviewer said, “When did you graduate?” I asked how it was relevant to the position. He said, “You didn’t graduate, did you, Crabby PM?” I should have said, “This strangely adversarial; I’ll excuse myself now.” But instead I told him I omitted the dates because when I did, I got job calls, because I don’t present as old as I am. He agreed, but told me I should “Degree received” next to the line item. Every recruiter since then has told me that is batshit. This was the same guy who asked me why I was laid off. Me: “It was a large RIF, half the company was let go.” “Yes, but why were YOU SPECIFICALLY laid off.” I should have left.

    2) Recent interview where an owner made a racist remark about the types of people they hired for certain positions, one of those kinds of “those people have a certain aptitude” kinds of remarks. I wrote it off because I knew the other co-owner. I should never have done that. I also feel ashamed that I let him get away with it.

  47. Lisa*

    I have cut short at least two interviews when I got the sense the company’s culture was not a good fit. I never doubted my decision, either. (I walk out of bad movies too :)

    Also, if during an interview I see a number of red and yellow flags go up, I’ll think about it for a day or more, then, back out of the interview process. Life is too short to work for in a toxic company or for a toxic boss.

  48. Bill*

    I had a very harrowing experience at a job fair right after I graduated college (in 1984). I had no work experience and my grades were about the C+ range. College degrees are a dime a dozen – did you know there are over 4200 colleges and universities nationwide? And some of them have over 100,000 students enrolled at them. So just imagine how many students are enrolled at all 4200+. In most cases, they can fill all their jobs with the cream of the crop. There was a job (not at the job fair) with a starting salary of $12,000, and I could see the applicant they wanted to hire. Even he had two years of paid work experience to get that low paying job. They’re not going to hire a half-bad person when they can hire an exceptional one. I was an average applicant in a sea of above average and outstanding applicants.

    There was a 2-day affair for any college graduate to attend. The first day, I didn’t have a resume because I found out about it just before they had it. My dad helped me type up a resume that night, and with middling grades and no work experience, it wasn’t very good. I accidentally went into a line for an employer I had already been to the first day. They politely said I didn’t have what they were looking for on the first day. But on the second day, as soon as I handed them my resume, a look of disgust came over their faces (it was two guys). They made cruel, hurtful comments like I was a worthless piece of crap. “Why did you come here with qualifications like these?” “I thought I told you not to come back.” “We have fantastic people to choose from.” They asked me a few more questions and interrupted me when I attempted to explain. I said, “Give me a break. I’m only a beginner.” And I told them it wasn’t like one booth was green, the next was purple and the next was orange. It was plain-looking chairs and tables throughout the room. So it was easy to accidentally visit the same booth twice. I said I could see if they got angry if I came back 100 times. But just a second time was an honest mistake.

    Alison says to politely excuse yourself and leave. If the interviewer isn’t being cruel to you, that’s fine. But why the hell should I be polite to them if they’re being cruel to me? Here’s what I might say if it happened again: If I don’t have what you’re looking for, you have the right to turn me down. But you don’t have to say the most abusive things you can think of. It’s not like I committed a crime against humanity, or any crime for that matter. So stop behaving as if I have. Keep America beautiful – kill yourself!

    Any suggestions for what to say to an absolutely abusive employer? Alison, if you reply, tell me it’s you because I’d like to hear an expert’s opinion. Not that everybody else is trash, it’s just that Alison would probably know best out of anybody.

    By the way, I did eventually get a career job at the Post Office and I’m still there now.

  49. Katie*

    I wish I had seen this yesterday. I had an interview where the requirements were misrepresented in the posting. They wanted far more experience and qualifications than advertised and still called me in to interview after seeing that I clearly didn’t meet them. I left feeling angry for wasting my time, embarrassed, and guilty for wasting their’s.

    1. Bill*

      At least they weren’t blatantly cruel to you. I have a feeling that few if any applicants met the requirements. They’re probably hired to carry out the interviews, and they may have been afraid that if they said nobody qualified, it could appear they just said that as an excuse not to do any work. So they called in unqualified applicants to fill the bill, so it would look like they were doing their work.

      1. Katie*

        The woman definitely worked there, but the person who scheduled me was different than the person who interviewed me and it was obvious no one had really looked at my resume. She wasn’t cruel except for telling me my degree “did nothing for” her and as the 10 minute meeting I drove in a blizzard for, continued I think we were both wondering what I was doing there while I wanted to scream that they were the ones who called me in. As I was researching the company, I questioned whether I met the (real) requirements, but thought that the position I was applying for was entry level enough that there might be some leeway given the basic posting. I’m not in a position to pass up interviews or I would’ve cancelled. Don’t know why they didn’t phone screen me though. Lesson learned!

  50. Bill*

    Alison said that you shouldn’t walk out of interviews willy-nilly. Some wiseguys on here said you should. You really shouldn’t though, because walking out of an interview almost always automatically disqualifies you for the job. And you could disqualify yourself from a job you could have gotten.

    But if it’s clear it’s a job you don’t want (like the insurance scam) or it’s clear they’ve turned you down and they’re just saying the most abusive things they can think of, you have nothing to lose by leaving.

  51. CanadianKat*

    A bad interview I didn’t end early, but should have:

    I was interviewing for lawyer (essentially a sole practitioner). The interview was on Saturday – strange, but I didn’t mind. He starts with a long rant about himself, hardly any questions about me – also strange, but fine, some people just like to hear themselves talk. Then 20 minutes in, he lights a cigarette and starts smoking! My jaw dropped. To be clear, smoking in offices is prohibited where I live. It has been for many, many years. Later on in the interview, he jokes about his staff jokingly threatening to report him to Workplace Safety.

    I stuck around to see how much more unbelievable the guy would get. I shouldn’t have. It took me several days to air out the stink out of my clothes.

    He offered me the job a few days later. No wonder he didn’t ask me any questions (for a full time lawyer position) – he could only hope for a really bad candidate who couldn’t get a job anywhere else. The same may have been true of his staff.

    1. CanadianKat*

      Also, he was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Law Society – because he failed to pay a contract lawyer working for him, lost the case when she sued him, and then called her stupid and directed profanity at her.

  52. Bob*

    I had an interview where the boss spent an hour telling me about all the famous people he knew and how he could kill people and make it look like an accident. He didn’t give even a second to allow me to say anything so I stuck it out in fear he would contact me in the future. Thankfully I never heard back and so far I’m still alive.

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