let’s talk about bombed interviews and other job search mortifications

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

Today I had the worst job interview of my entire life. I am a young graduate professional who had the opportunity for a job that would have put my in a great position financially and mentally. It wasn’t a dream job, because those don’t exist, but I was really excited about it. Alison. I bombed it. It was terrible. It got me thinking though, I can’t be the only (semi) successful person who has totally failed something. Can we hear about mortifying interview experiences?

Yessss. Readers, please tell us about your bombed interviews and other job search mortifications in the comment section.

{ 1,215 comments… read them below }

  1. Andy*

    New to town, recently graduated, interview for a temp agency. Not even a position, just the agency.
    I choked. Literally. Something (dust? anxiety?) got all caught up in my throat and I absolutely choked and hacked and coughed and it could not be controlled. I was MORTIFIED. I must not have handled the near-death gasping as gracefully as they needed me to. I was not placed.
    I was not surprised.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I can beat that.
      I coughed so hard I threw up.
      Just a little and I was able to swallow it back but it came with a HUGE, chunky, wet belch that was so loud there was no chance they didn’t know vomit was involved.
      They got me a bottle of water and I snuck a mint (which also helped soothe my tickly throat) and it was not discussed.
      I did get the job and stayed for over 7 years.

        1. De Minimis*

          My wife has a related thing where she feels compelled to laugh whenever someone starts choking. She warned me about it when we first started to get to know each other.

      1. Liz E.*

        I once threw up in an interview, but at least I managed to step out into the hallway! I cleaned myself off and walked right back in and got the internship, but it’s still embarrassing 10+ years later.

        1. Jeannie*

          Oh dear. I made my brother have an embarrassing job interview by giving him the stomach flu. They gave him a trashcan and kept the interview going (doctors are odd). He got the job.

          1. PeanutButter*

            TBH the ability to keep going through illness is prized in the healthcare field. When I worked as a paramedic it was not unheard of for people who were sick to give themselves IV’s and hook up a saline/banana bag to give themselves a pick-me-up during downtime/charting.

            Not saying it was great but with the way healthcare is run as a business in the US, the work culture is definitely who can work the hardest/most overtime/etc and is one of the reasons burnout is so high. :/

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          I remember Alison ran a letter a while back from someone who’d puked on the interview room floor during an interview!

          1. Theresa Rozum*

            I once had a new manager decide to interview every employee after he was hired. He started off okay with the standard, “Tell me about yourself” and “What do think your strengths are. ” Then he says ( you have to know here that I’m a full figured woman), “Tell me about your weight problem.” I replied, “I don’t have a weight problem.” He says,”Well, I believe you do.” To which I said, “Well…that would make it your problem,
            not mine.” His face turned bright red and he changed the subject.

            1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

              I want to high five or fist bump you, but neither feel adequate. How about that thing in soccer where people half lift up their shirt over their face and run around blindly screaming in celebration? Too much?

    2. New Job So Much Better*

      “Please don’t tell Bernadette how badly I bombed this interview”– Penny on TBBT.

      1. Token Female*

        I also had a terrible interview with Intel. They accused me of lying on my resume and yelled at me. I was young and so insecure I burst into tears. It still irks me that I didn’t have the skills to refute what he was saying. I didn’t lie! And he was a jerk.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Intel hires PhD’s in my field, and the company has a reputation for having a lot of obnoxiously ultra-competitive personalities. I see it’s well-deserved!

          1. BekaAnne*

            Yes and no… I wouldn’t necessarily say “a lot” but in certain areas, there are definitely a lot of egos involved. And the higher you go, the more ego is involved… But when I worked there, most of the people either in clean rooms, supporting the clean room workers and working in the fabs were lovely. It was when you got to HR, R&D and teams like that who were more problematic.

    3. Nita*

      Oh no! That reminds me of a dinner interview I had years ago. Mexican restaurant. There were chips and salsa, and somehow I got a chip’s pointy end embedded in my gum. I could tell right away that was going to bleed big time. I shut my mouth, managed to smile and nod toward the bathroom without (I think) making it look like I’m trying to keep my mouth shut no matter what, and locked myself in the bathroom to clean up. I’m so glad there were several people talking at once, so no one asked me any questions. I made a mental note to see the dentist about that cleaning ASAP, got the job, and never ate chips in public again!

    4. Llame job seeker*

      I was interviewing for an agriculture magazine suite and even though they clearly said “you don’t have to have farming experience” in the description, I felt it might help if I could speak intelligently to an agriculture question should it come up. I panicked, though, when asked “Not that it’s necessary, but were curious if you have any farming or ag experience?”

      “MY UNCLE HAS A LLAMA!”

      This was all I could think of. My uncle had a farm and I’d visited several times. He recently bartered some work for a llama (I don’t know why, his wife wasn’t pleased…). So in this interview, the best I could come up with is that my extended relative had a single dromedary.

      They laughed. I was mortified. But I got the job!

        1. Loubelou*

          You got me, I laughed out loud too XD well done on getting the job! Did you write any llama articles?

      1. Stormfeather*

        And here I thought all the talking about llama wrangling on resumes and interviews was supposed to be non-literal…

      2. BekaAnne*

        Them: “Why are you interested in working for our company?”
        Me: “I watch all the medical shows and love them…”

        Super cringy – that was just over 4 years ago, and they still describe me as one of the best candidates they’ve ever interviewed. Don’t know how… I honestly figured that I’d fluffed it.

      3. frogsandturtles*

        One of my favorite kids’ books is about a farm llama: Harley, by Star Livingstone and Molly Bang.

    5. anon y. mous*

      At the interview for my first-ever FT job, I warned them that I was still getting over the end of a cold, but didn’t think it would be too bad. I was very wrong. Halfway through I got caught in a coughing fit that lasted over a solid minute – just spasms and spasms, couldn’t breathe at all.

      When the interviewer asked me worriedly if I was OK while shoving tissues at me, I lifted my head with tears STREAMING DOWN MY FACE and gasped “It’s fine, I’m just so happy to be here that I’m crying.”

      The job turned out to be a disaster but I’m still proud I managed that save.

        1. anon y. mous*

          Yep – not taking credit for the quality of the joke though. I think most reasonably merciful people would at least try for a polite chuckle in that situation.

    6. Jean*

      I got struck by a horrid coughing fit out of nowhere in an interview once too! The best part was when the person interviewing me said “Everyone we bring into this room has a coughing fit.” I felt really safe after that, let me tell you.

      They ended up calling and offering me a lower paid, crappier position than the one I applied/interviewed for. I said no thanks, and maybe look into having your ventilation system checked.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      This happened to me once (allergies), and I had nothing with me. I asked for a cup of water and although they got me one, they looked at me as if I was a bug. I didn’t get the job.

      Now I have a water bottle with me AT ALL TIMES.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You weren’t placed?

      After you had this interview, did you contact them again? Since it was a temp agency…that may have been the reason you never heard from them again.

      In my experience many folks will go fill out the paperwork, do their initial interview with the agency and then wait for them to contact them, only to hear crickets.

      The thing with temp agencies is that isn’t how that works at all. You have to constantly check with them and push them to get you into a position. Only after they’ve placed you successfully once will you be put into their regular rotation. It’s a dumb system and I hate it personally but it’s important to remember these are not actually a traditional employer and are a go-between for you and your future placement. So you have to do that stupid gumption routine we otherwise say never to try!

      I’ve seen so many folks go to every temp agency in town and just wait it out and are like “This temping this is impossible! I thought they were always hiring!”

    9. Rachel*

      I was 24-ish, going out for a different position within the (ginormous) company I’d been with for 2 years.
      My mom called to say we needed to put down our family dog of 13 years right before I went to an interview. By “right before”, I mean 5 minutes before they called me in.
      I have no idea what I said, it’s a swirling black hole.

      But hey! That was 2 jobs ago (I’ve been progressively moving up) and I just accepted a job offer after negotiating a $10k salary increase and they threw in a cash bonus.
      And while no dog could ever replace my dear Tessa, my sweet Olive is snoring next to me.

  2. Sternoblaze*

    My absolute favorite was in college when I interviewed for an internship with the Associated Press. I was a magazine journalism major, but I had been working/job shadowing at my hometown newspaper as a reporter and page designer for a few years at that point. The interviewer was pretty horrified by this.

    Him: “So I see you’re a magazine major, but you’ve worked as a reporter and page designer. What do you even want to do?”
    Me: “Well, I’d like to eventually write for magazines, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have experience in a lot of different areas… right?”

    He harrumphed at me. I kept trying to win him over. It wasn’t working. At the end, he basically threw an AP-branded lanyard and tin of mints at me (everyone who interviewed got those) and said, “Here.” At this point I was pissed off at his behavior and responded with ,”Wow, it’s just like Christmas.”

    Yep, pretty sure the AP will never hire me. But that’s okay, because I bailed on jouralism pretty quickly after getting my degree.

      1. Prof. Kat*

        Sometimes people have some SUPER WEIRD exclusionary ideas about what experience is relevant or appropriate.

        I’m a professor Mechanical Engineering, and I was on a hiring committee for an opening in my department a few years ago. We had a very strong candidate whose degree was in Aerospace Engineering. For folks who are unfamiliar, these two fields have a TON of overlap. My research field, combustion, is sometimes found in ME departments, sometimes in AE departments, and sometimes both. I have colleagues from both fields, and I could just as easily ended up being a professor of AE with my background, despite my degree being in ME. Anyway: overlap! So much overlap! But one of the members of the hiring committee was super bothered the fact that the candidate had an AE background, even though his research was adjacent to mine, and we were specifically looking for someone with experience in *his area of research*. She wouldn’t let it go, and she actually tried to disqualify him from the search pool early on. It was very strange.

        1. Zelda*

          Have you heard the one about the mixed marriage? She was a chemical physicist, and he was a physical chemist, but somehow they made it work!

        2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          I have a doctorate in English with a PhD thesis on representation in fantasy literature. I have also published on science fiction. These fields have unimaginable overlap.

          I wasn’t considered for a postdoc researching science fiction because they only wanted people whose PhDs were on science fiction specifically.

    1. Elisabeth*

      That’s so dumb. It’s not like journalism jobs grow on trees; most of us end up doing a range of things during our careers. (And for what it’s worth, my degree was also technically in magazine journalism. That would be the one thing I’ve never done for any length of time.)

      It sounds like the interviewer had some kind of bug up his butt.

      1. GreenDoor*

        My husband, who works in publishing himself, would say “and that’s why paper publishing is a dying industry.” Just a weird stick-in-the-mudness in that industry about certain things.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Judging by the job posts I’ve been seeing that want a range of skills, I have to agree.

      3. BekaAnne*

        But surely it’s a good thing to have experience in adjacent and related roles, especially when the business contains and interacts with these roles every day… You have an appreciation of how to work better with those departments, and set things up so that it’s easier for them to pick you your work. I don’t … I don’t get it…

    2. Coffee Cup*

      Yes, how is it a bad thing to get experience in different roles within your industry as a student?

    3. Midwest Writer*

      I’m going to defend him just a little. I’ve been a newspaper reporter for 20 years. Working for the AP would be daily deadlines and a super fast-paced environment. And practically every student in j-school says something about wanting to write for magazines. The perception amongst newspaper types is that magazines are a cushy job (not saying it’s true, just that that’s the perception). He heard “I want the freedom to write long-form, investigative or in-depth features” and what he needed was someone to write 200-words in 20 minutes on breaking news, with the ability to either flesh it out in the follow-up versions or the humility to pass off the bigger story to more experienced reporters. It’s totally OK to want to write for magazines. It’s just that’s a totally different area of expertise.
      Yes, journalism needs people who are well-rounded and yes, reporters do best with getting a lot of experience. But in this case, I think Sternoblaze didn’t spin it as “lots of experience doing lots of things is great” and the interviewer heard “I’m not particularly interested in this job.”

      1. Senor Montoya*

        But it was an INTERNSHIP. Not a job. That guy might have had reasons or feels about it, but seriously, INTERNSHIP.

        1. MissGirl*

          Journalism internships are highly competitive. I was rejected from internships at local papers for not having enough experience. The AP would be so much more prestigious and hard to get than those.

          Like the OP, I found another field.

          1. ampersand*

            Thirding this. I also found another field–I couldn’t take the competition, among other things.

        2. 2 Cents*

          Yeah, the AP guy is looking for someone who wants to be that reporter, not someone who wants to try a lot of things. That said, OP’s resume must have impressed (and maybe the AP test scores) because those internships are really competitive.

          Speaking as a journalism major, now marketer (gasp!)

          1. le sigh*

            you’re right, but there’s also a ton of snobbery within journalism (at least in my day). the print journalism kids at my jschool all competed to out-grizzle one other (skipping class to work on stories, drinking at the bar til 3am, etc.) at the ripe ole age of 20, looking down at the TV and radio kids. it wasn’t much different in the professional world, either. AP guy probably felt this person wasn’t interested, so why was she wasting his time — but also, i’ve sat in some really condescending internship interviews with old timers who have a really narrow idea of what a “real” journalist is.

            1. Gatomon*

              That terrible culture really turned me off journalism by the time I finished my degree. Unfortunately I think at least 2 students in my year ended up committing suicide within a few years after graduation due to the pressure of the industry. The one that sticks in my mind the most was the “golden child” photo student who walked on water in the jschool, but couldn’t land a job after graduating.

      2. RoseMai*

        Either way he handled it terribly! If he was concerned about her interests, it would’ve been a natural next question to just ask.

      3. Sternoblaze*

        To be honest, I wasn’t particularly interested in the position. But one of my teachers specifically recommended I interview for the internship, so I did. My dream job was writing for “Entertainment Weekly”. I think if I’d told that to this guy he would have literally exploded on the spot.
        I never did end up writing for any magazines. I was a daily newspaper reporter for a while. As I mentioned, I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t the right role for me so I bailed. And looking at the state of journalism now, I’m glad I made that decision.

        1. Nagi*

          Out of curiosity, do you mind if I ask what you do now? I always find it interesting to see the changes in people’s career paths.

          1. Sternoblaze*

            I work in project management. I liked writing, but I wanted to write fluff, and those jobs aren’t exactly plentiful.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              I admit to reading the kind of fluff you wanted to write, occasionally. And judging from the truly terrible grammar/structure/logical gaps I keep seeing in the online entertainment magazines, you’d have clearly been better than 99% of what’s out there, just based on the quality of your comments here! (Not saying you should’ve stayed in the industry; I’m just curious how, if it’s so competitive, they seem to keep landing idiots who can’t write.)

          2. Autumn Whitefield-Madrano*

            Magazine journalist career-changer here! I switched to “content marketing,” where I essentially write magazine-style pieces but for brands. It’s more stable in its own way but unstable in other ways, because content agencies lose and win clients all the time, so I was hired to work on clients that matched my background and am now writing articles that I have zero qualifications whatsoever to write.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      As someone who went to J-school as a grad student and was never able to make it into the industry because I couldn’t get an internship (which were all unpaid) AND also be able to work enough hours at an actual paying job to afford rent and food…screw that guy. You had actual experience and were looking for an internship to get more. Honestly, that sounds like a great thing. It’s not easy to get any kind of internship in journalism. Magazines are even harder because there are fewer of them than newspapers, and they seem to be less inclined to take on interns.

      I also bailed on journalism, but I’m happy with that and love my current career (which does actually use my researching and reporting skills from J-school, so that’s kind of great).

      1. TootsNYC*

        lots of the big magazine publishers (Condé Nast and Hearst, specifically) have fucked up internship management so badly and been stung for it (justly so) that they won’t have interns anymore. They can’t trust their employees to treat interns properly.

        I keep wishing they’d say, “fine, we’ll pay minimum wage,” but they find it easier to just not bother. And since the field is shrinking, I don’t think they’re worried about trying to help train up qualified junior employees; they just hire someone who’s working below their experience level.

        1. whomever*

          See I find that depressing. I work in computing and my internships ALL paid well. Like really well (actually one of them 12 years later I was…shit, I’m still here, how did that happen?)

          1. le sigh*

            yeah, my cousins did internships in computer engineering and the pay and opportunities were a world away from my journalism internships. it didn’t help that i had to limit my options to paying internships (they exist, but there aren’t many and they pay a pittance). and honestly, like some of the other commenters here, i just found it wasn’t what i wanted to be doing in the long-term.

      2. elescissorhands*

        I also bailed on journalism/ communications, it’s been so therapeutic to hear stories like mine! I’m still trying to find the type of position that would allow me to use the skills I learned. WantonSeedStitch, I’m just wondering what your current field is?

    5. Coffee Cat*

      Fellow Mass Comm/Journalism grad here. I graduated in 2007 just as the economy was collapsing. Myself & most of my peers never landed jobs in the industry. The few internship & job interviews I went to involved interviewers who were very condescending & made me feel like I was lucky to even be allowed to sit in the lobby. I ended up going into financial services. I worked my way up to management, working 9-5 and making much more than I would have made in journalism land. My company has encouraged me to take on training/teaching role where I write & edit all new hire & training course materials. I get to enjoy writing & creating, but in a different field.

      1. UnicornPoopsSkittles*

        Mass Comm/Journalism grad here, class of 2008. Same. Just… same. Only I ended up in medical research administration managing contracts and budget negotiation.

    6. Former Recruiter*

      That weirdly made me think of the scene in Gilmore Girls when Rory interviews with the newspaper. So awkward!

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      (With the caveat that I don’t know anything about journalism/media specifically) it doesn’t sound like you were the one who should have been mortified here. I initially thought he could be just asking how the AP internship would fit with your overall ‘profile’ but then given that he “harrumphed”.. this person just sounds like a jerk.

    8. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      An agency sent me to a company to interview for a position. I don’t get the job, but the interviewer gives the agency good feedback about me. (They hired someone with a little more experience in the company’s specific industry.)

      Several months later, the agency sends me back over to that company to interview for another position. The first guy I interview with and I really hit it off and things go really well. He tells me that he’s going to bring his boss in so she can meet with me. Said boss walks in, and lo and behold, it’s the person I interviewed with the first time I was there. She says “Oh, if I realized it was you, I would have told the agency not to bother sending you back here.” And…interview over.

      Thanks to that experience, I am very hesitant to apply for another position at a company if I’ve already had contact with them about a previous position, unless somebody at said company were to reach out to me about another position. Otherwise, in my mind… I had my chance, and that was that.

      1. applesthatacquiesce*

        You do yourself a disservice. People are jerks and remember that people move around so this manager, may or may not still be a manager. Let it go

    9. frogsandturtles*

      What?? Why would working for your hometown newspaper & also doing design work be a problem?? I’d think it would be an asset. That’s such a weird take.

  3. Amber Rose*

    I once spent an interview badmouthing my previous employer. Just, talking about how they lied to me and mistreated everyone and were generally terrible. I shockingly did not get that job and also I die a little inside thinking back on how inappropriate that was.

    1. JokeyJules*

      I, too, have done exactly this. I definitely had the immature mindset of “oh, you want to know why i’m looking for new work? let me tell you alllllll about it” which is very much not what was really happening.

    2. PB*

      I did this once, and somehow did get offered that job. I didn’t take it (a second, better offer came in at the same time), but I am baffled as to why they would have wanted to take a chance on me after that.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        My theory is that someone on the hiring committee worked there previously and had a similar experience. They wanted to hire you on principle to get you out of that hellhole.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I might do such a thing if I felt your credentials were really good, and I otherwise liked you, and I sensed that your previous employer was a trauma that you’d probably recover from pretty quickly.

      3. MM*

        I had interviewers ask me about not even my prior employer, just an org I’d worked at in the past that they had heard of. It wasn’t “why are you looking for work,” but rather “tell us your opinion of Organization.” It was the scariest Catch-22 I think I’ve had in an interview! I couldn’t tell if it was a test to see whether I had the professionalism not to badmouth, or a test to see whether I was discerning enough to see what was wrong with that org!

        I split the difference as best I could. Didn’t fully badmouth it, but I did, ah, acknowledge some concerns and critiques I had about the place. The two interviewers then Exchanged Significant Glances, which made me even more worried about the whole thing. I ended up getting the job, but to this day I wonder what that was about and whether I unknowingly screwed a former employer out of some grant money or something.

        1. rldk*

          they might have been asking because they’d had people come in with bad habits from that org, or just heard it was very dysfunctional. in which case, i’d think your response was perfect – showing that you recognized the issues while maintaining tact to not rant and rave.

        2. Max is my dog*

          I took a HR-related job that seemed like a step up for me at an organization that was on those Top Places to Work lists. The person who hire me was warm and friendly and spoke of her staff as a team pulling together. It took me only a short time to realize it was all a lie. The boss had personal problems that were affecting her. She often drank her lunch and then turned mean. No one who worked for this place appeared happy. My counterpart on the staff had sued the boss for racial discrimination so they didn’t speak My first project was to “clean up” after a mistake that the boss had made years earlier but I balked at signing my name to correspondence that I knew was problematic, if not illegal. After that I could do nothing right. I am certain that she (or someone at her instigation) twice removed checks from files in a cabinet in my locked office after hours; the spare keys were not secured. She fired me the day I reported the second theft and made unfounded accusations about my honesty. I was there only ten weeks

          I chose to leave this experience off my resume even though I had quit another job to take it. I don’t think I was asked directly about the gap but was prepared to say that I needed time off to deal with a personal loss. I got another job four moths later.

    3. Massmatt*

      If it makes you feel better, I have interviewed multiple people that badmouth their prior (or even current) employer. Even more people don’t make the mistake of saying bad things, but through gritted teeth, etc make it clear it’s a sore spot, especially if they were laid off.

      I’ve been laid off, it was painful, but the best advice I got during my job search was in how to handle talking about it. Describe what happened, using as neutral language as possible. Say something positive about the experience, and then immediately transition to talking about how that experience leads/helps you to what you are looking for NOW. Practice! Have a friend or acquaintance (preferably someone with experience hiring) mock interview you and give candid feedback. If you can’t do that, record yourself! Yes, I hate listening to/watching myself but every cringe you experience in practice is hopefully one less in a live interview.

      1. Mr M*

        I am trying to think about a positive from being laid-off with the an entire workforce of 720 on the same day because the company filed for bankruptcy & the COO & CFO are under investigation by the SEC…

        1. Perpal*

          A default positive may be something along the lines of “and now I am free to move on to bigger and better things!”

        2. Beatrice*

          Positive about working there, not necessarily about your separation experience. There, you’re going for neutral.

          “I was part of a mass layoff after the company had some difficulties with the SEC that weren’t related to my job. I was sad to go; I really enjoyed the opportunities I got to work on marketing process improvements there.”

        3. JustMyImagination*

          Unfortunately, the business had to close the site I was working at. It’s unfortunate as I met some really great people there, but I am excited that it gave me a push to explore new opportunities!

          That’s the gist of what I would use after I was laid off.

        4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You don’t make the layoff itself positive, you make your experience prior to the layoff positive!

          As others have stated it’s a “Unfortunately the business wasn’t sustainable and did have to close. However I was involved in many projects that have taught me valuable skills and I met many good people there.”

          I’ve had companies file bankruptcy before that’s actually better in the long run [unless you’re the CEO and trying to get another job…then that’s viewed a direct fail on their part often enough]. For all the employees who weren’t in that high executive role, you are just seen as a victim of their bad choices or really in most cases, the victim of a standard economy that consumes businesses for a lot of reasons, rarely due to gross negligence on anyone’s part.

          My very first job included an embezzling GM and an owner who made the worst thing that you can ever do mistake, allowed a big business to essentially own them without any actual ownership stake. AKA they were the only contact/customer and when they decided they were done, they pulled out and left the place dead in the water.

          But I learned all the basics of data entry, basics of accounting, structures and procedures that weren’t the reason the place died. So I still talk about the place fondly to the people who want to hear the good times and not the bad.

          1. Really - I'm not an idiot*

            I have more than 1! The most memorable:

            1) law school on-campus interview with big NYC firm:

            Interviewer: what kind of law are you interested in practicing?
            Me: litigation
            Interviewer: you know we don’t have a litigation practice, right?
            Me (after uncomfortable silence): I don’t know why I’m even here.
            Interview ends.

            2) interview for a GC position in a private equity firm. After acing interviews with a bunch of folks, they hand me a laptop and a 50 page agreement and ask me to write up a summary of all the ERISA issues. I start a Word doc with my name – and nothing else. I sat there for 30 mins bc my mind was blank and I hadn’t done that type of work in several years. Then, I had an interview with the President who told me how excited he was about my candidacy and I then interviewed with him even though I knew I had no chance. Spoiler: I didn’t get the job. I cringe thinking about their faces when they opened the word doc.

        5. Massmatt*

          I feel for you, honestly, that stinks. But—Did you learn anything there? Hit a big sales goal? Grow your skills? Even terrible jobs usually have SOME positive. Find something, you will be the better candidate for your next job.

          Entire company closing/lay-off is terrible, but In a way easier to explain than why out of 2,000 employees YOU were one of the 1-200 laid off.

          Explain, say something positive about it, and immediately move the discussion towards what you are doing NOW—talking about the interviewer’s job and how good you would be at it.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Even when you work for an absolute disaster of a dysfunctional madhouse, you can always say “The position was a real eye-opener into how many ways a firm can mis-step. I now know what kinds of things to watch for in places I work so I don’t get stuck in an untenable situation.”

            I said something like this after I bailed out of a company that was circling the drain *hard*. Two months after I left there was a massive layoff, and bankruptcy, IIRC.

        6. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          If it was in the news, you can say, “Well I’m sure you’ve seen the news,” and then go on to why you want the job, without skipping a beat. They’ll Google it after.

        7. JSPA*

          “Despite excellent rapport with my co-workers and real interest in the day-to-day job, there were always some details at GONEBUSTCO that never quite added up. I’m sad to be in this situation–all of us let go, bankruptcy, top brass under investigation–but at least I now have context and a bigger picture understanding. Being suddenly thrust out is painful, but I really do take comfort in being in good company. I want the job offer! But if you don’t hire me, I hope you do hire one of my excellent ex coworkers.”

      2. chipMunkey*

        oh my. I interviewed someone who used “my f&*#$&_ manager” in every example given. EVERY. We did not hire. And a good lesson in using quotes inside of summarizing to capture the candidate’s responses.

    4. Yorick*

      I accidentally did this. I was trying to find out if they had the same terrible problems, but I didn’t know how to ask in a professional way. So I was basically like, “Is the department chair a jerk? Is the dean a terrible cheapskate? Because I’m dealing with that a lot right now. Let me tell you all about it.”

    5. Jellyfish*

      Ha, I once missed a job for the opposite reason. I worked in an absolute hellhole, but I’d been told not to badmouth a previous employer during an interview. With no real definition for “badmouth” and no diplomatic scripts to explain that it was time to move on, I stubbornly refused to explain why I wanted to leave a job that appeared decent on paper.
      My interviewer kept pushing for details, and I repeated over & over that my boss and I didn’t communicate well. While that was technically accurate, I only succeeded in making myself looking like a terrible communicator.

      1. TootsNYC*

        If I were interviewing, and you said “my boss and I don’t communicate well,” I wouldn’t push. I’d figure it was a mismatch.
        Maybe because that’s what I had once.

        I was once trying to leave a job I’d been at for a long time, mostly because the new boss and I just didn’t jell. I felt that she started every interaction or evaluation from the mindset that I MUST have screwed something up. And of course, sometimes I did screw something up.

        I interviewed at a bigger company she had once worked at (but for a job in a different department, but same industry/skill set), and the HR person said, “Oh, you work with Janet! She’s great, right?” And then “Why do you want to leave?”
        I just said, “Well, I’ve been there 10 years, and it’s just time to see if I can find something fresh.”
        But…

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        I did that once. Truth was, I loved my job, but it was at a startup. They were out of money. This rat was exiting the sinking ship, or at least trying to. I was interviewing at a direct competitor. Now that I’m more experienced, I would have just said – look, we both know I’m under NDA, breaking that would be a bad look, it’s not job or performance related and my boss will back me up on this. Here’s his number. But I was young, and I went with some content free babble about new opportunities. The hiring manager knew I was bluffing, and asked the question multiple times, but I had no idea what else to say. Nope, no job for me.

    6. EH*

      Ughghgh my first interview back on the market after a bunch of years in one place went like that. Felt like I sat in a little booth in the back of my head yelling STOP TALKING ABOUT OLDJOB OMG but nope. Ran my mouth, didn’t get the gig, don’t blame them at all.

      My next interview went much, much better, as have all interviews since – got it out of my system, I guess? Still, I cringe when I think about it.

      1. TardyTardis*

        I had to explain a gap of over a decade. “Special needs child, finally living on his own” pretty much covered it for me.

    7. Anon for this*

      I have done this too. The employer I was badmouthing was Oxford University. There are no words for the levels of cringe I feel looking back.

        1. Anonomoose*

          Apropos of nothing, I feel that, having talked to friends and from experience, almost anywhere that seems from the outside to be super prestigious and awesome is a bit of a hellmouth

          1. Anon for this*

            Oh yes, I completely agree! And thank you for my hypothetical hiring, my less than diplomatic or tactful 20-something self is slightly less mortified.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            I can agree with this. I work for a private university with significant name recognition.

            I once worked for a private religious university, and it was worse. Everyone there lied or was entitled as heck.

          3. Extremely anon for this*

            My worst-ever interviewer was at MIT. Oddly enough, I worked there in several departments, and it’s weird but not a hellmouth.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              I was a student at the University of Chicago, and I worked there for several months during a gap year in the middle of my college years. It was pretty boring but otherwise unexceptionable — topical low-level office grunt work, but no worse in any other way than you’d find at any comparable type of job. And a couple of my friends stayed on after graduation as permanent staff in IT roles, and rather liked working there.

              So, no hellmouth that I’m aware of. I mean, yes, the place is a university, and as such it has all the weirdness of any other institute of higher education — Alison has talked a lot about the ways in which academia is a different world from the ordinary workplace, and it’s certainly true from my experience! — but AFAICT it’s not particularly worse than the less prestigious schools, and in some ways better than many.

    8. JB (not in Houston)*

      I did this once. Even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was thinking “You are not supposed to do this,” but it just came out before I could stop it! I’m still embarrassed thinking about it, even though I would not have been a good fit at that firm.

    9. PolicyWonk*

      I recently reviewed intern applications for a prestigious internship. Several statements of interest said a variation of “I would like this internship because it’s prestigious.” But the best one (“best”) said that she would like this internship because all her previous internships were horrible.

  4. Casual Librarian*

    In college, I once answered the ‘question’ “Tell me about yourself.” with an entire family history and a talk about where I came from and my hobbies. Think along the lines of, “Well, I come from city, state and have 3 brothers and 2 nieces. My dog just turned three last week and likes to listen to me practice the trumpet….” I went on like that for a solid 2 minutes before they cut me off and continued the interview.

    1. RPL*

      Oh, god, same. The interviewer cut me off by saying, “I want to know why I should hire you, not be your friend,” and I was so mortified.

      1. Beancat*

        Oh my god the thought of hearing that makes me want to shrivel up D: Kudos to you for carrying on because I think I would have been so stressed I vibrated out of the visible light spectrum.

          1. Beancat*

            Hahaha please do! It’s just a fun turn of phrase that can apply to many things, like stress or too much coffee.

        1. RPL*

          I probably should’ve just left right honestly. I was so flustered that there was no hope of saving myself. To make it worse, he’d taken me to the kitchen area for the interview for some reason, so the entire time there was someone sitting nearby eating a yogurt cup (very, very slowly, probably getting a kick out of watching me embarrass myself) and people wandering in and out. Total nightmare for my very first interview.

    2. Hobbies*

      Oh goodness, same. It’s mortifying to think about now. But without proper guidance… the struggle is real!

    3. Joie*

      But like, this is a reasonable issue. I’ve gone professional elevator pitch and they stare at me and go “how about about you personally?”

      But, maybe I’m odd but I would be absolutely pleased if someone told me they have a dog who likes to listen to the trumpet. Just reading that brings me joy.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Right? I would have been like, “Please show me pics of the dog now” and then we’d spend the rest of the interview talking about our pets.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      To be fair to you, vague-ass questions like “tell me about yourself” are not good interview technique!

      1. Disco Janet*

        Literally every interview I went to for my current profession asked me exactly that question, so I’m sure the expectation is that you will have a spiel ready about your (relevant) background.

        1. Socrates Johnson*

          What’s annoying is that is literally what is in your resume and I feel like it’s just reiterating it.
          Well,. I started here and got promoted and moved here and did this and blah blah.

          I never ask that.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            When we ask it in my department, we want an idea of your progress in your career. Connect those dots that you laid out on the resume.

    5. YMMV*

      That’s hilarious. Reminds me of a time I was on an interview panel, and we asked some typical question like “tell me about a time you solved a problem.”

      and we got a 5+ minute spiel about how this guy managed to get his junker of a car (that did not run) out of his friends driveway in less than 48 hours, since his friend said it was no longer welcome there. His solution? call around till yet a DIFFERENT friend allowed him to place it in HIS yard.

      The interview panel and I just sat and listened in awe.

      Oh? And the job in question was for an entry level IT Developer role. Nothing to do with junker cars. At all.

      1. Quill*

        I always clarify questions like “how did you handle a difficult situation” with “do you want one from my professional career, or would you be fine with one from my studies or volunteer work?” because which one they want is pretty dependent.

        Professionally? I had a terrible boss and supervisor and I dealt with my supervisor, who I characterize as “not communicating efficiently,” rather than giving me verbal orders that she changed 5 minutes later and then yelled at me about, by forcing her to put all her requests in writing.

        Personally I can always fall back on having to change my undergrad thesis topic a month and a half before it was due. (I got a “you fainted in your advisor’s office, are you OK?” compassion B- and the shame of knowing that my thesis is freely available online if you do a little digging.)

        1. Casual Librarian*

          This is so great! I love the “professional career or studies/volunteer/etc” that’s a solid tip.

        2. YMMV*

          I think we would have been more open to “non-work” answers if his examples wasn’t about moving a rusted, non-working car from driveway to driveway… lol.

          1. Happily Self Employed*

            I would have been impressed if the solution was to recruit all his car buddies to get it running (while sourcing parts, adapting parts/tools, getting a moving permit, etc.) by basically doing a super crunch engineering project. It might involve actual physical parts and not code, but demonstrates leadership, project management, resourcefulness, and a lot of skills that are harder to demonstrate than whiteboard coding tests.

    6. TimeTravelR*

      I interviewed a woman who started her response to that question with the number of kids she has…. I knew then it was not the response I was looking for. I no longer ask that question in that way.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve had this happen in interviews a lot and it’s never actually cost anyone a job. It’s kind of heartwarming really because nothing that you are saying is weird or offensive to me, it is answering a question presented as “Tell me about yourself.” [Use “Tell me about your career and what brings you here today.” or something like that, jfc interviewers.]

      I’m kind of angry at the person RPL up thread is talking about. Don’t be a vague jerk and then respond with something catty like that. You can cut into someone’s monologue easily without being rude. You redirect into “What about you career wise, I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear, that was more of what I was getting at!”

    8. Karo*

      Ditto! I also threw in some answers to the (unasked!) not-illegal-but-not-advisable questions, like how old I was, sexual orientation (though, to be fair, that one was in reference to me talking about how long I had been with my boyfriend), etc.

      1. on the 1s*

        um maybe I’m not understanding your comment, but it is most definitely illegal to ask your age and in certain areas it is also illegal to ask about sexual orientation.

        1. Karo*

          From what I understand, they’re not illegal, just really ill advised because they can’t use the information to make a decision and if they turn you down, you could argue that it was because of your age, etc. Regardless, the lady didn’t ask any of that, I just couldn’t stop rambling about inappropriate topics!

        2. zora*

          Karo is correct, it’s a misunderstanding that the questions are illegal. Acting on protected information is illegal, not the actual asking of the question. But it’s not good to ask the questions, because then it makes it much harder to prove that you did not act on that information once you knew it.

          1. Judy Johnsen*

            I thought Allison had said on this site that an interviewer asking a potential candidate about marriage, do the u plan to have kids, etc was illegal.

      2. Amethyst*

        Same, but only because “tell me about yourself” = me saying something like, “I’m hard of hearing, I know ASL, I’m a hard worker…blah blah blah” which falls in the grey area. I have 15+ years of work experience to back me up as to the kind of employee I’ll be for my prospective employer, & my hearing loss is more of an issue now than it was when I first started working just out of high school. I have a harder time understanding people now than I did a long while back. (It makes for some amusing “What did Amethyst (mis)hear” anecdotes though!) The only time I was actually comfortable talking about it was when I interviewed for a job at my audiologists’ office since they’ve seen me for all my hearing aid/etc. needs for about 2 decades. (They actually brought it up, not me, but again, we’ve known each other for that long that it really wasn’t an issue.)

    9. Entry-level Marcus*

      I did something similar. I was interviewing for basically a dream job and was asked “what accomplishment are you most proud of?” I proceeded talked about how proud I was for maintaining a healthy long term relationship. The interviewers didn’t push back, but they did seem awkward. I obviously did not get the position.

      1. ampersand*

        I feel this. I haven’t been interviewed since having my daughter, but seriously? I’m most proud of getting through the first year of her life with no one dying (literally, me, there were complications, and also I kept the baby alive) or fleeing for the hills. I definitely won’t say that during an interview but I’ll be thinking it.

          1. nym*

            My SIL gantt-charted her pregnancy to plan for all the tasks she had to do to prepare for baby. We laughed, but that nursery was painted and all the furniture assembled a month before she went into labor.

    10. Clueless*

      I did the same thing as a college senior interviewing for my first FT job. It was a phone interview and after a while we got disconnected, so I called back and continued on with my life history. It wasn’t until years later that it dawned on me that the disconnection was not an accident. Oh, and I didn’t get the job – big surprise!

    11. Willis*

      My worst interview is also because of my response to that question. Like you, I interpreted it as them wanting me to tell about myself personally. Only, I wasn’t expecting to have to do that and I literally froze. After an awkward silence I said “Umm, I like to do….stuff” and gave a couple generic examples (read? go to the movies? I don’t remember now).

      It was my first real, professional-type job interview and for some reason it didn’t click in my brain that what he was asking was “tell me about yourself professionally,” which I would’ve been pretty prepared to do. But, it wasn’t for a position I was interested in so I wasn’t disappointed (or surprised) when I didn’t get the job!

      1. Corporate Goth*

        That’s not the worst answer I’ve ever heard to this question, if it helps any.

        That was, “ummmmm….” on repeat for a good 90 seconds. With job-relevant prompts like “Do you like to write? Code? Study foreign languages? Extracurricular activities? Eat pasta?”

        I was so trying to help that poor kid out, but wound up feeling incredibly desperate during *his* interview. The rest of it wasn’t much better.

      1. Teach*

        I teach high school kids, and one of my herd just did a video interview with a very highly selective college. 90 minutes passed and he opened my office door and said, “I did a lot of interview prep and was not expecting the hardest question to be ‘tell me about yourself.’” Good note to self to teach them how to answer that one!

    12. Snarflepants*

      Heh. Who hasn’t bombed this question at some point in their career? No one told me that this question actually ment, “Tell me about yourself from a professional aspect?” There I was at job interviews blathering on about where I was born and what my favourite food was. The interviewer really didn’t need to know about that.

      1. 404UsernameNotFound*

        Yeesh. I can’t even remember if I got asked the dreaded “tell me about yourself” at the interview, but I do remember an impromptu practice interview I had with a relative that was literally just “tell me about yourself, Miss 404”, repeated ad weepium in increasingly irritated tones. Makes me wonder what the poor woman had to go through in her job interviews…

        Thankfully, my real interviewers were much nicer and did not make me cry. I also got to use my preferred spiel in the interview to good effect (which makes me think I was asked some variation of “tell me about yourself”, but I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to everything that isn’t random facts).

    13. Alice*

      You must be really good at the trumpet! My dog runs away when I take out my trombone. I think he’s afraid of how it “gets bigger” when the slide moves.

    14. Elizabeth*

      SAME except the interviewer DIDN’T stop me, and instead gave me mortifyingly harsh (and correct!) feedback about it later. It was an internal interview, and an incredibly good lesson learned, but also, SO SO mortifying.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I once had a job interview at a very prestigious technical university. Despite not really wanting the job, I was still nervous in the interview.

    None of the nitty gritty details matter except for this one: I was completely, unintentionally full of shit.

    At one point, I was babbling so much even I had no idea what I was talking about, but for some reason I couldn’t stop talking!

    Oh they let me go on and on. No follow up questions and no call back.

    It was for the best!

    1. Krabby*

      Oh man, I did that too! After uni I was desperate and looking for anything. I went to an interview for a call center job at a bank. I was so nervous that I started babbling and said some random stuff about the work I’d done at my last job that was not true (but also not a problematic lie, more like a funny anecdote that never actually happened), but they asked probing questions (probably because it was a dumb and slightly unbelievable story) and I doubled down and made up more unbelievable shit until what I was saying directly contradicted my resume. But I could. Not. Shut. Up! I think my interviewers at that point were internally laughing and just seeing how far they could get me to dig down into the little hole I’d made for myself.

      That said, the job I actually did get (which was the literal worst) is how I got interested in HR, the career I’ve now had for 5 years. There’s always a silver lining.

    2. Emily*

      I had the opposite. I got an interview with a supercool arts nonprofit where I would have loved to work. I was so nervous in the interview that I barely talked at all. Like answering a question about my experience in a particular aspect of the work with, “Oh yes, I have done that lots of times.” … … … awkward silence … The interview was less than 30 minutes and I remember walking to the car just knowing I had totally bombed.

    3. MM*

      “Completely, unintentionally full of shit” is a valuable phrase I will be borrowing for those days when I suddenly lose my mind in a seminar and start babbling inane nonsense.

    4. AVP*

      Augh I had a phone interview like this at a top, top highly respected media brand that I would normally kill to work at. Wires crossed on their job post, and the internal titles they use are a little odd, so I had applied thinking it was relevant and then pretty quickly realized it was not. Think like, I am a teapot fabricator but they wanted a software engineer and I had shadowed an engineer once so I just blathered on about that as if it had been a big part of my job and I knew how to do it. I was just too embarrassed and too far in it to pull out. They did call me in for an in-person interview but I didn’t take it – they must have either been really desperate to fill the position or had a quota to hit!

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve SO done that too. Just kept babbling on without really answering the question.
      I think that happens to me when I’m not really all that enthusiastic about the industry of the place, but go the the interview anyway because I need a job…any job. Desperation!

  6. Relatable Chainsaw Bear*

    When I was in college, I applied for an internship with NPR’s government lobbying division that I was SO psyched for. I was super interested in lobbying for a cause I actually believed in. I made it to the second round, was asked to do a phone interview. However, there was one small hitch – at the time, I didn’t really listen to NPR, I just read it online. A lot of my friends said I should just not be honest about that when asked about my favorite NPR shows, but I knew I couldn’t speak eloquently about any of them, so when that subject did come up in the interview, I was honest and told them I only read the news stories. Needless to say, I did not get the internship.

    1. Minhag*

      Mine is kinda related to your. In business school, I decided I desperately wanted to work for IBM and applied for a summer internship. I got the interview!

      At one point, they asked me about my favorite technology. I completely blanked. I’m a millennial but an intentional laggard on technological trends. I actually get annoyed when people suggest a tech solution to a problem that could be solved in a good-old-fashioned analogue way. I stuttered out an appreciation for whatever technology linked my iPhone to my MacBook Air because it keeps my Notes app up to date. Of course, I had no idea what kind of technology made that possible. Maybe something to do with wifi?

      I did not get the internship. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that a company called International Business Machines would have a technology focus.

      1. Paradise J*

        Why would you be annoyed when someone offers a solution to a problem that you’re seeking a solution for? That sounds a little confrontational.

        Also, IBM is a direct competitor to Apple, so if there was a problem with your answer, it’s probably the fact that you name-dropped three Apple products in one sentence!!

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Because a lot of times the supposed solution is expensive, inefficient or delicate, and has a lot of bugs. Sometimes technology is great! But sometimes you can solve the problem just fine with methods that have a century of field use demonstrating effectiveness and reliability, and people just want the tech because it’s shiny and they assume it will be better since it’s NEW.

          I think people fall across a spectrum with technophobes at the one end who never want anything new and ultra-early-adopters at the other end who are champing at the bit to hop on the latest new thing. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, with a threshold for adopting new technology set based on how inconvenient the current solution is and how risky/inconvenient we perceive the new tech.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            I have panic attacks if the computer freezes, because I always think I broke it, even when I know perfectly well that I didn’t break it.

            And don’t get me started on smart phones. The things break if you look at them wrong, they cost $$$$, and you have to get special cases and phone insurance for them.

            I love my flip phone and my landline.

      2. Gumby*

        Writing. Writing is my favorite technology.

        I also lag a touch on technology trends, on purpose, and it is partially about not needing a new gadget every two seconds and partially that I am a leeeeetle bit of a “loving resistance fighter” a la Neil Postman in Technopoly.

        1. Delta Delta*

          I have been known to say “hammers” to this question. People used sticks and rocks to achieve their goals. But it took thousands of years for people to figure out how to put those things together to make, essentially, hammers. And really, sometimes all you want to do is hit something with a hammer.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      I actually don’t think that’s so terrible. There could be all sorts of reasons why a college kid couldn’t or wouldn’t listen to NPR. I would think that the fact that you did read the articles online and did so conscientiously would be enough for interviewers. As to why you didn’t get the internship, who can say? There are a million reasons why people don’t get jobs or internships, including “We already have too many interns from region X” or “We need an intern who is studying Major Y”.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, I’d say that relying on the *radio* is far more a sign of being behind the times and/or not that invested. I’m assuming this was before the days of podcasts, but after the days that your average college student would rely on a radio for listening to music.

  7. Threeve*

    Left an interview, went to the bathroom, and realized that I’d tucked in the stretchy shirt I was wearing under my blazer a little too firmly and the top of my bra had been showing the whole time.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      OH NO!!!!! That’s like my worst nightmare. I have large tracts of land and sometimes they take over new territory by dragging down the neckline of my shirt. I have no idea how they do it but I swear I have to pull up my shirt at least once a day lest anyone be accosted by my bright pink nursing bra.

      1. Prof. Kat*

        Bahahaha, A+ Holy Grail reference. “What, the curtains?”gets a lot of playtime as a joke in my family.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          My husband and I throw A LOT of Monty Python quotes around. His favorites are from the Holy Grail scene with the peasants who run their own democracy. I tend to go for the Spanish Inquisition sketch myself.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      My skirt slipped off as I was being escorted out of the interview. I caught it as it was descending my butt (luckily I had hose on), but had a hella awkward moment of trying to figure out how to get it zipped and shake hands at the same time. Readers, I was not hired

    3. Susan*

      I looked down mid-interview and realized my ankle length skirt had unwrapped, exposing my knee length slip. Thank god for the slip, though – could have been worse!

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      Not at an interview, but my last day of work at a job, I managed to tuck my skirt into my nylons and walked out like that. And of course no one stopped me on my way to my car. *sigh*

  8. LizB*

    Does the time my skirt split down the back seam literally the moment I stepped into their office count?

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      It would have. But I’ve been through the comments and you are probably holding fast in the top 20!

      1. LizB*

        I was extremely lucky in that the lining did not rip, so my butt was covered – but I didn’t know what to do, and was too mortified to mention it to any of the (very nice!) people interviewing, so I just kind of tried to keep my rear end pointed at walls as much as possible, and as soon as there was a chair available I was firmly in it. I did not get the job, but probably for unrelated reasons.

    2. irene adler*

      Yeah.
      So does discovering, during the tour at the end of the interview, that my blouse had been unbuttoned-the part directly over my ample bosom-the entire time. No doubt the interviewer was amused.

      Mortifying.

      Never heard back from them.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          They could have been perving on irene adler the whole time. So they didn’t mention it for prurient reasons.

    3. Dankar*

      Ugh, same! I sat down to wait for my interviewers and the top button of my pants pinged off into the office somewhere. I heard it rolling away (old building with original hardwood floors)…

    4. Malarkey01*

      Don’t feel too bad, on the other side of it I was interviewing a man who dropped his pen, reached to get it, and split the ENTIRE seat of his pants (like he basically had chaps after that). He was also a larger man and we ended up getting him 2 blankets to wrap himself with and I and another manager walked behind him to his car to help him conceal it. I have never had more empathy for someone.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        That happened to my husband’s pants… as we were on our way to my grandfather’s wedding. We were out of town, he had only packed those pants and jeans. Luckily my dad had an extra pair of dress pants and they are (close to) the same size.

    5. Peachy*

      Here to commiserate. When I interviewed for an internship, I wore a skirt with a seam in front that ripped a tiny bit as I got out of the car. I had no way to fix it so I just hoped for the best. As I sat down with the interviewer it split all the way up to my underwear. I learned my lesson, and now I only wear things that fit properly and always carry safety pins.

    6. From The High Tower on Capitol Hill*

      So something very similar happened to me once. I had two interviews back to back and my skirt split a little during the first one. By the time I walked to the second one (just a few blocks) that split was at the booty level. Luckily it was winter and I live in the Northern US so I had a knee length parka on. So there I sit, in my second interview of the day, refusing to take off my parka. They asked me probably two or three times if they could take my coat and I just kept saying I was cold. Oddly enough I did get offered both of the jobs, ended up accepting neither.

    7. Person of Interest*

      Been there – ripped open a big chunk of the side seam on my pants as I was walking to their office. I think I sort of held my bag over that side of my body, and when I sat down I arranged my jacket to cover it.

    8. Campfire Raccoon*

      I have had this happen too.

      That’s what happens when you go a long time between needing the interview clothes. Eek.

    9. Lee*

      Oh god, this reminds me of the time my suit pants ripped in the rear, and I didn’t notice till I got home. I have NO idea when it might have happened. My interviewers and others might have seen my underwear.

      To make it even worse and more mortifying… it was uh… what I like to call “shark week” for me (got this phrase after reading a thread online about how a shark brain looks like a uterus and such, you can conclude from there).
      A heavy flow runs in my family, clothing doesn’t escape unscathed.

      Yeah… I didn’t get the job. I still wonder if it happened before or after, what was seen…
      (I tried my best to not be TMI/gross)

      1. Valprehension*

        I always thought it was called shark week because, um, blood? And because of “Shark Week” that used to happen on one of the major cable networks in the 90s. This is a whole new level of info/conections.

        1. Lee*

          Yep, the blood is also a factor and the Shark Week on Discovery channel. It’s like a 3-fold of references, which is why it’s so good.

    10. Shorty Paddleboardy*

      Oh man! Something similar happened to me.
      Not an interview, but back when I taught at a sailing school, my shorts completely ripped up the butt. I was about to teach a paddle boarding class to 15 and 16 year old boys (I wasn’t much older). With barely ten minutes until the class, I went into the office where they sell school logowear. They don’t sell shorts, but they do sell shirts, and they had full torso mannekins on the wall to show them off. That meant the mannekins had to wear cheap shorts. Without a word to the office manager, I undressed a mannekin and went to change in the maintenance shop (no bathrooms). I came back and put my shorts on the mannekin and binder clipped them on the back to stay on, just in time for class.
      For some time after that, the manager had to field customers asking to buy my mannekin shorts. I never gave the original ones back.

    11. Sleepless*

      Ohh, I haven’t thought about this in decades, but I bought a new interview outfit for my first professional job but I didn’t really practice moving around in it. I got in the car to go to the interview and the skirt fell open over one leg almost to crotch level. I had somehow not noticed it was a wraparound skirt. I spent the interview with my notebook firmly clamped on my lap. (And I did get offered the job, but I took a different one. Which I interviewed for, wearing that same skirt. What the hell, I had figured out how to wrangle it by then.)

  9. CatCat*

    One of my very first job interviews of my life was in my late teens at an office supply store. The manager asked me the standard “why I was interested in the job” question. This is really the kind of question one should anticipate and think about in advance. But I had nothing. Unable to think of anything else, I stammered, “I… just… like… …. …. … office supplies.” Silence. That was it. Interview performance did not improve. Didn’t get the job, LOL.

    1. LizB*

      Your transcription of your answer is making me laugh out loud. (I do actually like office supplies quite a bit!) But also, that question is such an annoying question in retail jobs, where probably most applicants are interested in the job because they need money to, like, live and stuff. Few people are really just so so passionate about toner and binders that they’d give anything to work part time at office max.

      1. Phony Genius*

        If I was the manager at Office Max, and you came in showing extreme passion for toner and binders, I probably wouldn’t hire you. I’d be worried that you might be some kind of weirdo who will defile the merchandise after hours.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I would love to be able to leave the George Takei “oh my” gif here. So just envision him saying it in your head, I guess.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          *insert gif of Liz Lemon with paperclips being sensually poured over her head*

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          This is exactly why my buddy’s wife was rejected for a job at a winery tasting room. They correctly deduced that someone a little too interested in working around booze would be a problem employee!

      2. boop the first*

        Yeah, they seriously need to ban that question for certain types of work. I mean… I get that there’s a reason I would choose that specific place, but it’s not going to be a thrilling answer regardless.

        1. CynicallySweet*

          Right? I got asked why I wanted to work for Subway once, and all I could think of was “I need gas money”

        2. Perpal*

          Curious what managers at those places like to hear. Are they actually looking for some kind of honest answer to figure out how to accommodate? Ie, “i want a summer job to save up for a car” is different than “hoping for something low stress that pays the bills for at least the next few years” vs “I was just divorced and trying to reenter the workforce” etc. IDK, maybe there is a reasonable explanation out there!

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            So I’ve never hired at an office supply store, but if I did, I’d be looking for something like this: “I’m just starting out in the workforce and I’m looking for an opportunity to begin building my customer service skills. One day I’d like to be an XYZ, so I think it’s a good idea to learn how to speak to customers and meet their needs. I’m really eager to do a good job with that so that I develop the skills to prepare me for the rest of my career.”

            Or perhaps: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the workforce. But one aspect that I always did enjoy was creating systems to keep things organized. With all the inventory in a store like this, I’m guessing that there are lots of systems that have to be followed to keep things in good working order. I enjoy following those kinds of systems and finding opportunities to implement new ones that might have been overlooked in the past.”

            Above all it should be truthful. You don’t have to say that you’ve had a lifelong passion for office supplies, but surely there is some aspect of the job you think would be a match for your skills and that would benefit both the business and you. Otherwise–honestly–why should they give you a job?

            But again, I am not a manager at an office supply store or anything like it. So I could be off base.

          2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            I’ve hired entry level teenagers, and some of them would struggle with that question. I used to clarify, “OK, well, what made you apply here, instead of somewhere else?” Sometimes they wouldn’t get it and they’d say, “Well I can walk here and I don’t have a car,” and I’d say, “OK, there are three fast food restaurants, two gas stations, and a big box store on the next block, why did you apply here instead of over there?” Usually, this would get me the answer I needed to fill out the Mandatory Standardized Interview Form.

            The kids I supervised, I’d remind them when the topic came up in trainings, that they need to have a quick sentence explaining that because they’ll hear the question often through their working years.

            1. Oh No She Di'int*

              This response makes me realize I’d probably accept a much less “professional” answer from a teenager in an entry-level position. Something like: “The atmosphere seems really friendly here and it seems like I’d get along with the people I’ve seen here before”. That might be enough.

            2. Iris Eyes*

              Yet the answer is probably that they have applied at all of those places. Or have worked at some.

              1. 1234*

                I was just going to make the same comment, or they’d say “Well, the gas station is only hiring for overnight hours and I don’t want to be at work at midnight.”

          3. Rebecca in Dallas*

            When I was a manager at a department store, I liked to hear that they shopped at the particular store and enjoyed their experience. I know why they want *a* job, but why did they choose to apply at this particular store?

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Ugh I hate that question, especially for retail or very entry-level grunt positions. You can practically hear your own soul dying as you smile and try to say some convincing nonsense about how you’re totally super jazzed at the idea of stocking shelves or handling abusive customers for minimum wage.

      1. same*

        Ha, this, too! So many internal monologues of um… well, I like money, and am willing to trade labor for it?

        Having appreciation? Sure. But “passion” for dealing with people’s craptastic treatment, minimum wage and no benefits? Sorry, no.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My college summer retail job, I freely admitted I was looking for a job that did NOT involve hot grease…. although yes I also had some interest in their product.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      When I was a kid, there was a store called Organization Plus next to the movie theater. I went in there whenever I could. They had bins of fancy markers by color, cute desk organizers, and other assorted great things. I would have loved to have worked there. But, that store has not existed for decades. The Office Depots or Office Max stores near me are the most dirty and depressing stores, on level with the few remaining Sears and Kmarts. The only answer to why someone would want to work there would be a need for a job.

      1. Mary Richards*

        I love little stores like that! And the answer to “why do you want to work here?” for something like that HAS to be “because I love what you sell!”

      2. Iris Eyes*

        As someone who has watched people try to hire people to work at aforementioned stores I can confirm. Their Reddit is pretty entertaining this week since they are trying to keep a 5% retail workforce reduction underwraps.

      3. Lepidoptera*

        There’s a store called Solutions that does the same thing in Canada.
        Not sure it’s in the US too.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I sorta did this at the interview for my awful job at a water park. They asked all the usual leading questions about “who is the most important person at Water Park?”, etc., and instead of saying, “The customers!” I had to think about it.

      They hired me anyway because the work was terrible and they needed bodies, but the was nothing particular in my interview to recommend me.

      1. Anonomoose*

        I’m picturing a “is it…me?” response, and may be laughing a little too hard at your pain..

        1. Dust Bunny*

          . . . “employees” was one of my various answers. My indecision alone should have warned them off.

          (I was a good employee, but the interview was a doozy.)

    5. Lindsay*

      I just skimmed your comment and missed that it was at an office supply store on first read. That would be an AMAZINGly embarrassing answer for any regular office job!!

      1. Onion Rings*

        I currently work at a print center. One of my former coworkers was interviewing for a slight promotion, but was told he lacked passion. Verbatim: “it seems like you’re only in this for the paycheck.” I have wondered ever since what the correct response was. “I would do it for free! I just love faxing!”

    6. PugLife*

      Oh man. in high school I was an art kid and called myself a poet and senior year I applied for a job at Staples. During the interview I gushed about how much I loved pens. Got the job. It took me a few years to realize that the manager just wanted to sleep with me. That job was messed up.

    7. Elitist Semicolon*

      About a year ago I had a phone interview for a position at another organization that was almost 100% identical to the one I have now. About two minutes in, a truck backed up into my driveway and about 4 men, most shirtless, jumped out of the back and started milling around my garage. I trailed off into nothing as I watched this, and then I said to the interviewers, “I”m sorry; I’m going to have to call you back. A truck has just pulled up and there are workmen on my property and I don’t know why they’re here.” The committee chair responded, “Well, we’re on a tight timeline and we have another interview scheduled for this afternoon.” At which point I looked outside and saw one of them open my garage door and go in, so I said, “I’m sorry. Five minutes – please? I really can’t let workmen I don’t know and wasn’t expecting be on my property.” The search chair huffed and said, “Fine.” I hung up and went outside to see WTF was going on. When I called back, the first question they asked me was, “How did you prepare for this interview?” Because I was doing the exact same job, I tried for some levity by saying, “Well, I went to work this morning and did my job!” SILENCE from the committee. I tried to back up and say, “I also looked into X, Y, and Z that your org is known for,” but apparently it was too late. I didn’t get a second interview and they didn’t bother rejecting me – not even via automated email generated by HR.

      (Turns out the workmen were from a company I’d hired to remove some insulation from the garage, showing up at 1:30 on a Tuesday instead of 4:00 on Friday as we’d scheduled. They were “in the area” and called their manager to see if it was okay for them to come; he emailed me (which didn’t see until after they’d come and gone) and then lied and said he’d talked to me and I’d given permission. The entire thing was a complete surprise – the only reason I was home to begin with was that I took the afternoon off so I wasn’t taking an interview call while at work – and worst of it was, not only did they completely blow the interview for me, but they did absolutely $hit work too. Nasty review on Yelp and the BBB website from me.)

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        UGH sorry – that was supposed to be its own thread, not a response. Apparently I do not understand how commenting works.

        1. Funfetti*

          Sounds like you dodged a bullet that they were not flexible about a potentially unsafe situation happening at your house. And that they didn’t get your joke basically that you’re doing the same deal. But still annoying – I’m sorry.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            I know, right? Like, do they really think “sorry, we’re on a schedule” outweighs “there are random men at my house this very second” in urgency? Ugh.

            But you’re right. Bullet dodged.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I hire people for a slightly specialized niche. I ask people, “What do you like about our field?”

      I could see someone saying, “What do you like about retail?” in order to get you talking about it.

    9. Quill*

      At 19 I turned up in July for a part time opening at coach to get their application form with an obvious limp, decent shorts and a t-shirt, no makeup, and my natural hair on an 80 degree day with 80% humidity. I was not going for an interview, just because I had to fill out the application in person, yet after making me stand on my obvious limp for twenty minutes to fill out the whole form, the manager handed the thing back and said “you just don’t fit the company image.”

      Me, pissed: “Is that even a legal hiring criteria?”

      Manager, condescendingly, “Our sales associates promote the company image with their appearance and attire, and by aggressively pursuing sales for their commissions -”

      Me, even more pissed because COMMISSION had not been mentioned in the ad “Wow, you suck.”

      (Exit Quill, limping to stage left.)

    10. Amber T*

      Haven’t interviewed for a while but I remember never knowing how to answer why I was interested in the job. Right out of college, I had a phone interview with an HR department (can’t even remember the company) about an entry level accounts payable job. At that point, my eventual goal was to get into professional development, so I was applying to any entry level HR position I could. I had no idea how to answer… like, I want a career in HR, but in a completely different section, so I’m just applying to what I can?

      Didn’t get called for another interview.

    11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I once answered that question (also in retail) with “you need people to do the job and I need the money”. (I was offered the job ahead of apparently more than 100 other applicants, and excelled at it!) The manager appreciated my no-bs, straight up attitude (and thus it was all the time I worked there, and he was sad to eventually see me leave.)

    12. Curmudgeon in California*

      I swear, some days I feel like giving a slightly snarky answer to that “Because I like paying my bills and it fits my skills.”

      Some of the supercilious jerks make me want to say “Because it pays more than signing on a street corner”, but I manage to hold it in.

    13. Gatomon*

      Ahh! Once I interviewed at a call center during college, and all I wanted out of that job was the health benefits, so… that was what I told them. I had no interest in the product or the work and just couldn’t fake it, even though they gave me multiple options to try a better answer.

      Naturally, I didn’t get hired. I remember being so embarrassed and confused at the time. The place had a reputation of hiring any warm, college-aged body so I really felt like I had done something horribly wrong to not land it. It just took me years to realize what exactly I’d done to screw that up….

  10. queen b*

    I don’t know if this is strictly “terrible” but I was certainly embarrassed!!! I was interviewing for an internship in college at a big fortune 500 company. I was also horribly sick. Runny nose, cough, the whole nine yards. But, I got dressed in my little suit and my padfolio and loudly proclaimed to the interviewer who came and got me that I was sick and I didn’t want to shake their hands.

    It was 2 panel interviews and in the middle of the second one I started coughing uncontrollably. The poor interviewer offered to get me water to help ease the cough, because I was inexperienced and forgot to bring my own water bottle, lol. I’m sure I didn’t even have good answers to the questions because I was trying so hard not to keep coughing.

    You know that part in Parks and Rec where Chris Traeger goes “STOP. POOPING.” – that was me with trying to stop my cough. Lesson learned, reschedule the interview if you can barely talk without hacking up a lung.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I would have totally done the same thing when I was a college kid. It would have never occurred to me to reschedule because I felt like I had no power whatsoever – and of course one NEVER asks anything of interviewers or bosses because that’s entitlement. Oof.

    2. Hats Are Great*

      I once did a phone interview when I had pneumonia. Coughed like crazy through the entire thing, it was awful.

      Eventually did get the job, tho.

    3. Kiwipinball*

      I tried to reschedule an interview once because I was sick. They wouldn’t let me. In their defense, they were having massive interviews (they needed to hire maybe 100 people for the summer, so were interviewing a LOT of students). I was having horrible stomach cramps and needing the bathroom frequently. I went, figuring worst case I’d have to leave and I’d be no worse off than if I skipped the interview completely. Thankfully my stomach had settled down some and I made it through, and I got the job. It’s not easy to reschedule intereviews.

    4. MCL*

      I was a finalist and flew out to another state for my interview. Academic library interviews trend toward being very long, and I had dinner with some hiring committee members the night before my full-day interview/tour/presentation the next day. This was at a tiny private college in the rural Midwest, and while I was eating dinner I realized I was starting to come down with something. The next day I woke to realize I had a full blown cold. I scuttled across the street to the one store in town, bought a bottle of DayQuil and some antihistamines, and powered through. It sucked so. much. This was in the beginning of 2009, I had just finished my master’s program, and the economy was in a tailspin. I was desperate for any job in my field. I didn’t get the job, but I ended up getting a different job later that year, which I still have.

    5. Bear Shark*

      I have a similar story from an interview for an internship. I didn’t even think to ask to reschedule when I came down with a terrible cold the day before the interview. Showed up in my interview outfit with a pocket full of tissues trying to discreetly wipe my nose but a pocket stuffed fully of snotty tissues is not at all discreet. Sounded like a complete airhead because cold medicine makes me loopy. Everything I’d learned from work and school up to that point was that if you weren’t throwing up or have a fever you better get yourself to work/school and suck it up because otherwise you were a slacker playing hooky and didn’t deserve the opportunity.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I had an interview where I was sick (and refused to shake hands). I wasn’t at death’s door or hacking up a lung, but I was just sick enough so I wasn’t nervous. This also happened to me before a skating show once. I was so high on cold medicine I didn’t give a rip who was watching me.

      Part of me thinks this is a feature, not a bug.

      1. Extremely anon for this*

        In high school I once sang a solo in a concert where I was miraculously able to hit a really high note (the third E-flat above middle C) not in spite of but *because of* the cold messing up my voice. It killed my low range, but somehow managed to temporarily extend my high range.

        Though after high school, I always sang alto….

      2. Gatomon*

        I did really well on my ACT in high school because I was completely wrecked on Sudafed + Benadryl to stop the coughing and runny nose. I scored way higher than I expected and decided it wasn’t worth trying again while healthy.

    7. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      And we wonder why flu reaches epidemic proportions in worse and worse numbers every year…it’s all the sick people who won’t stay home but instead go to job interviews!

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Here’s the thing. We all have bills to pay. I was sworn into the bar sick enough I should have stayed home. That’s because when I contacted them about rescheduling it was going to be 6 months out or so. I needed a job to keep a roof over my head and pay my student loans. My law firm needed an attorney admitted to practice law. Not sure they would have kept me around for 6 months without it. I sucked it up and got sworn in and then went right back home to bed. Ugh.

      2. Valprehension*

        …I think you mean “it’s the complete lack of social supports, paid sick leave, etc in our society that leaves people with no choice but to desperately hope for the best and interview for jobs while sick.”

        1. DrRat*

          ***STANDING OVATION***

          When your choices are 1) go to a job interview when ill or potentially 2) get evicted/have your car repossessed/have your power turned off/watch your kids go without food, most people are going to choose the former.

        2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          Yup. I was sick enough last year that HR told my manager to have an official ‘informal conversation’ with me about it.

          What’s the goal here? Intimidate me into being sick less often? Or guilt me into coming to work while sick anyway?

    8. Lynn Whitehat*

      Oh God. I once went to a half-day job interview with a fever of 102. I thought I would look like a total flake if I called in sick before I even had the job. That was the first year my older son was in daycare, and if I waited to be 100% healthy to do anything, I never would have left the house. But I overshot the mark that time. The interviewers tried to hint to me a couple of times that “it’s a ~demanding~ position that requires an ~energetic~ person”, but I couldn’t rally.

    9. Fikly*

      I had my final interview scheduled and had just come down with the flu. I really wanted the job, and got anxious that if we rescheduled it would be too late, because I knew they were wanting to make a decision soon at that point (they needed to fill the role before a major launch), and it takes me a while to get over the flu.

      They were kind enough to offer to switch from an in-person interview to Skype. I started off the interview by apologizing to VP that I might appear more low energy than normal because I was on day 2 of the flu.

      I got the job! But wow was I so upset about the timing in the moment.

  11. MissGirl*

    I interviewed with a recruiter from a company I was very intrigued by. I had applied to Position A, but he asked if I would be interested in interviewing with the hiring manager for Position B. B seemed a greater fit for my skills, where A was a stretch. I agreed to meet with Jane, the manager.

    The only way I could describe my meeting with Jane was oddly adversarial. She stood me up for the first call. The second call began with her demanding to know why I was interviewing for B

    1. MissGirl*

      Sorry, the above submitted while I was still typing.

      Continued— when it was such a different job from A. It threw me off and I started rambling. I did try to explain the recruiter forwarded me on. Then I mentioned I was excited to work for a company that wasn’t a start up but has the feel of one. (Ten-year company that just went public.) She got offended and said it she considered them a start-up.

      Then I started asking way too many questions for this stage and rambled, not letting her talk as much as I should’ve. I blame nerves.

      I didn’t send a thank you that evening (Friday) because I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to move forward. I got rejected Saturday morning first thing.

      While I definitely didn’t want to work for her, I was still interested in the company. However, my next two applications, over a year, we’re rejected in minutes, making me think I’m on a no hire list.

      Luckily for me I landed an awesome position at another company that’s doing much better post IPO.

        1. MissGirl*

          Yes, but I learned under pressure I crumple. I know I came off poorly and lost my chance at another position in that company.

          It was good practice, however, for my next interviews. I held up better where I now have a job.

          1. Dasein9*

            Oh, one bad interview does not a character trait make.

            Glad you got a better position in the long run!

      1. TheForeigner*

        I once found my self in an interview with the hiring manager and the recruiter. The first 30 minutes went extremely weird. The hiring manager kept asking about my qualifications, my motivation to apply for this position in his department, etc. And I kept answering how my experience, education, ambition, etc. were such a great fit – but I couldn’t shake the impression that something was off.
        Well, after 30 minutes the recruiter chimes in and says: “huh, I forgot to mention that you are not interviewing for the position you applied for. I matched you with a different opening, I thought would fit.” Both the hiring manager and I were surprised. The hiring manager had not known about this “detail” and was rightfully curious why I applied to a position that was not a good fit. And I cannot blame them, I would not have applied for that position myself.
        We talked for maybe 30 minutes more, but never really recovered. I was not upset to not hear back from them.

        1. LiveLaughLurk*

          One of the temp agencies we used to work with did this thing where they would copy applicants’ resumes, paste them into Word, and then send them to us that way as a way of stripping the applicants’ personal info. They didn’t fix the spacing or change the font or anything, just saved these now-three-page-long documents over to us. They did not mention this to us at any point, so we spent the first several interviews being pretty judgey about these terribly crafted resumes that were being submitted for a position that involved a lot of work in MS Office. Finally, one of the applicants saw our copy of her resume and was horrified. She pulled out her own copy, which was neat and well-formatted and one page and we finally all figured out what was going on. It was a total failure by the temp agency to make a good impression with any of their candidates and we made sure to send them a firmly worded email about it after that interview.

          (Honestly, none of the people who interviewed before the girl who helped us figure out what was wrong would have been a good fit, and while the girl ALSO wasn’t a good fit, she ended up getting a temp job with another department with a strong endorsement from us and was eventually brought on as permanent staff.)

          1. Chaordic One*

            When I worked in H.R., for certain positions my employer wanted applicants to submit their qualifications in a spreadsheet format, which they did. The job didn’t involve paperwork or working with computers or spreadsheets and, for the most part, the spreadsheets were pretty much unformatted. It never occurred to the vast majority of applicants that the spreadsheet might be printed out.

            Then the hiring committee wanted me to print out the spread sheets and they printed out as a disorganized bunch of data. After they saw the spread sheets a new task added to my already heavy workload and that was to format the spread sheets before I printed them out, which was a tedious annoying part of the job that I do not miss.

            1. Ginger Peachy*

              My first interview out of college I was so nervous my glasses fogged up. I tried to casually take them off, but that meant I couldn’t see the expressions on the faces of the four people interviewing me. And then they slid a piece a paper across the table, asked me to read it over and share my thoughts. I had to put the foggy glasses back on. I was so embarrassed! All that was missing was a piece of electrical tape on the bridge! I did get the job, though.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      I’m a software developer. I was once recommended for a job that was supposed to be a software developer who you can put in front of customers in a pinch. But at some point, they changed their minds and decided they wanted the converse–a salesperson who understands a little about computers. No one thought of taking me off the list at that point? Or maybe they felt like they had to interview me because one of their employees recommended me? Anyway, it was a long, adversarial, degrading encounter where they just couldn’t *believe* I would waste their time when I haven’t done any sales since Girl Scouts and don’t want to.

    3. Fikly*

      That reminds me of a series of interviews for a job I applied for after being invited to apply by HR (they reached out to me spontaneously). Every single interviewer asked me how I found out about the position. Because…your HR person emailed me about it?

  12. Sharkie*

    I don’t have any but I have a pretty embarrassing Interviewer bomb. My interviewer for a phone interview was looking at the wrong resume for the entire interview then accused me of lying on my resume. Only after I told her I was Sharkie Smith that she realized she was looking at Sharkie Jones’s resume. She offered me the job out of embarrassment and I accepted the offer (I was fresh out of school and depressed and needed a job). That job was a nightmare.

    1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      The owner of the company I was interviewing for stood up in the middle of my interview and announced he needed to go pass a kidney stone and left the room. I doubt he was embarrassed at all, but the manager who was interviewing me sure was. I was offered, and took the job because I was straight out of college, but man there were so many issues with that place.

          1. Amy Sly*

            I’m just going to say as someone currently trying to get one to pass … that I’m bloody impressed he could be that blasé about it. Good lord this thing hurts, and it’s not even passed through the pipes yet!

    2. SomebodyElse*

      I’ve done that as an interviewer… so embarrassed. I was really confused why the candidates answers weren’t really fitting the resume experience. But I continued to make notes… ask questions… etc. Finally I asked one that was very specific “Ok, I just want to talk a little about your role at Spacely Space Sprockets” He paused “Um, no sorry I’ve never worked there, I did work at Cogswell Cogs, though”… that’s when it dawned on me that I had pulled the wrong resume!

      I did fess up to the candidate though, because I’m sure some of my questions seemed totally out there and I didn’t want him walking away thinking he bombed the interview. Poor guy. He laughed about it though, and most of my questions to that point were non-resume specific. He didn’t get the job, but it wasn’t because of my error.

      1. ashie*

        I once rejected a teenage applicant because he failed his drug screen. Poor kid was so confused. Turns out there was some other guy with the same name who failed a few years back and I hadn’t bothered to look at the date. Oops. (We did hire him and he eventually left to join the Coast Guard. We’re really proud of him.)

        1. MeTwoToo*

          We also rejected a young man who failed his drug screen. He came in and argued that it was prescription and he could give us a copy of the prescription. It was and he did. His girlfriends prescription. We work at a med facility.

      2. Sally*

        How “SomebodyElse” responded is what you’d expect (confusion then apology). An interviewer accusing an applicant of lying! That’s a red flag all by itself.

      3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        Fessing up graciously was totally the right thing to do. My now-husband was once in a job interview where they’d been chatting for several minutes before it was revealed that the interviewer (Esteemed Doctor at Public University) had been looking at the wrong resume the whole time. EDPU glared at my husband, said “why didn’t you correct me!” and immediately showed him the door.

    3. Creed Bratton*

      My story is nothing compared to what I’ve read so far but once I did space out on the application while writing out MY OWN NAME. Store manager had to ask me if my middle name was indeed “Middle” (as in Jane Middle Doe).
      My middle name does start with an M but I was 16 and all nervous while filling out the application on site. I did get the job :)

      1. Lucia*

        I did something like this on one of the first job applications I filled out as a teenager. I was job hunting with a friend. We filled out applications in the store, and the manager took us right back to interview. I had written my last name in the correct box, but also in the ‘first name’ box. I didn’t get the job. My friend did.

  13. Basement designer*

    I got interviewed at my dream office. As part of the process, I bought along my portfolio, which featured my design work, including illustrations I did for a recent presentation. The boss was really impressed with the illustrations, and asked me to bring more next time.
    I was really happy to get into the second round of interview. Everybody said I was so going to get this job, and that the second round was often a formality. So I went to the interview, and bought along more illustrations. More exactly, fanart. (I felt a lot of my more “work-related” illustrations were very generic and almost powerpoint clip art like, and felt my fanart showed more passion and range).
    I didn’t get the job, and to this day, wondered if it was because I showed the wrong illustrations.

    1. MissGirl*

      I was told if you get a second interview, you’re practically guaranteed a job. Since I did get a job on my second interview for my first career job, I took it as gospel. Sadly, I assured a few friends they must be getting a job when they went on to get rejected. Job Myth #1.

      PS I totally want to see your portfolio.

      1. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

        I once got a interview for a job that I felt was a big stretch for me as a recent college grad, so I wasn’t nervous and did well in the first interview because I figured I wouldn’t get it anyway. But then they called me for a second interview, and nerves got the better of me. I didn’t really know how to prepare for a second interview, and I kind of tanked it.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        Oh dear lord, no. I think it’s irresponsible for someone to have told you that you’re practically guaranteed a job if you get a second interview. I have been involved in dozens (maybe nearing a hundred?) hiring processes throughout my career, and we almost always have at least 2 candidates make it to the 2nd interview stage for any given position. That means your chances at that point are 50/50 at best.

      3. Chaordic One*

        In a related school of thought, I once applied for a federal job where I received an invitation to be fingerprinted for a background check and photographed for an I.D. badge which I was told practically guaranteed a job. So I showed up at the security office and was fingerprinted and photographed and then… nothing. I was ghosted. (And I don’t have a criminal background and have never been arrested.)

        Friends who work at the agency all thought it was very weird. Six months later I received a generic “thank- you for applying” email with no mention of being fingerprinted and photographed, although it did invite me to apply for jobs with the agency in the future. Eventually I ran into one other person to whom the same thing had happened.

        My unconfirmed theory is that agency processed more applications than they had openings on the theory that not everyone would pass the background check. I was qualified for the job, but I think the agency ended up hiring a more qualified applicant and I was just sort of backup candidate.

        In recent months, the gossip from the friends who work at the agency is that the agency has been having trouble finding enough qualified applicants for their jobs.

        1. Vumblevee*

          My old boss did this. Her reasoning was that the fingerprinting and background checks took so long, she might as well put everyone remotely promising through it to minimize the wait time once she’d picked someone she liked.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Art that would have nothing to do with a job – like illustrations of someone’s favorite comic book character.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I wonder if they were worried about your understanding of copyright. Fan art (and fan fiction etc) is a tricky area for IP and they might have been wary that you would directly lift someone else’s material in other work and not realise it was not ok.

  14. AW*

    For years I ran a small circus company. We did auditions at a circus school, during the last week of their semester. A young woman went up in the aerial silks, got tangled in her very first move and could not get out. Her teacher stood on my shoulders and cut her out of her shirt with scissors. She finished the routine in her bra and tights.

    1. bdg*

      I thought this was going to be a chocolate teapot situation, but I think now it’s literally a circus company!

    2. LKW*

      That is an immensely cool job.

      I think having to be cut out of your clothing and leaving in bra and tights is a clear winner for worst interview. Especially as there is no ambulance or medical reason losing one’s clothing – just “not as skilled at aerial performing”.

    3. Sharrbe*

      You know, I may not have hired her, but I would have commended her for finishing. Or maybe I would have hired her if she really did do a good job? Because perseverence and the ability to withstand uncomfortable situations are pretty awesome qualities to have.

      1. AW*

        We hired her! She made jokes and kept her cool, and the whole time she was thinking “I’m bombing this” and we were thinking “she’s great under pressure.” Now she is the head of the circus school we met her at.

        1. CynicallySweet*

          This is an absolutely phenomenal ending. I can’t image you could do aerial work and be bad under pressure, but to be physically stuck and keep your cool? Seriously impressive

        2. LKW*

          OMG – it gets even better. She can now tell potential applicants the worst interview ever was her.

          1. Adric*

            Except she got the job. I’m pretty sure any interview that gets you hired is not “the worst ever”.

            1. Damien*

              It would certainly be MY worst interview if i had to finish it with my bits on show, even if i got the job.

    4. Lurking Trapeze Instructor*

      I usually lurk here, but I also am a flying trapeze instructor. Definitely endorsing the AMA. Circus people have great stories.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Alison, you have two people here saying their job IS a circus. And they really mean it.

        Let us know when to make the popcorn, this is gonna be good.

  15. unfortunate*

    I tend to have bowel movements when I’m nervous. My first round of interviews out of grad school, I took care to always poop before the interview. But I really, REALLY had to go again while I was sitting in the reception area waiting for my interview to start. I do one of the most horrific poops of my whole life. There is no ventilation, air freshener, or anything in the bathroom that can make it better. I return to the reception area, and the receptionist immediately goes into the bathroom herself. She comes out and says, “my god, it smells like an outhouse in there!” She proceeds to call maintenance because the smell is so bad and she’s worried the plumbing is busted. Sitting feet away from her this whole time, I beg the floor to swallow me whole.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I had to squeeze my face too keep myself from laughing uncontrollably at my desk while reading that!

    2. Snoop*

      ah yes. The interview sh*ts. I may or may not have had a ‘that is not a fart’ situation right on the way to an interview. I was early, thankfully, so I went into a McDonalds, threw away the undies, and went camando with just pantyhose over for that interview.

      1. Arabella Flynn*

        That’s… actually what pantyhose is for. That’s why they have a small cotton gusset in the crotch. It’s what differentiates them from tights. You’re not meant to wear anything under them, for better or for worse. There was a slew of advertising in the 70s pointing out that if you wore them under trousers instead of underwear and trouser socks, you wouldn’t have any panty lines showing.

          1. Commandoalldayeveryday*

            I have never commented before…but this is important…WHO THE HELL WEARS PANTIES WITH PANTYHOSE?????????

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                I can’t even remember the last time I wore pantyhose, but I know I always wore them with panties. I did know the panties were optional (or at became aware of that at some point, but for some reason, I never opted to leave them off.

              1. ampersand*

                Right?!

                As an aside: this is so funny! I didn’t realize there were separate camps on this issue…

            1. Valprehension*

              Tall people. Underwear *over* pantyhose/tights is sometimes the only way to avoid awkward crotch gap (where the crotch of the tights/hose falls several inches below your actual crotch.)

              1. heatherbelles*

                Ah, the safety knickers, I know those well. (opposite problem for me – short, but big hipped – so similar outcome).

                However, I recently discovered a company that actually does a range of sizes – height and width. They are a revelation, and so comfy.

                I had a number of interviews last year (didn’t get the jobs, but beside the point), and not worry about the tights staying put was a joy…

                1. heatherbelles*

                  Safety knickers or the company that makes them? Snag Tights is the company, if I’m allowed to say here (new to following the blog, so not quite sure…)

                  They do all the normal colours – and funky ones.

                  But prior to that, yes safety knickers allllll the way.

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            There are two distinct schools of thought on this. I rarely wear pantyhose/tights, but I always wear underwear underneath. BUT I don’t wash the pantyhose/tights every time I wear them, so that’s my reasoning.

        1. londonedit*

          Confused British person here who always assumed ‘pantyhose’ was just American for ‘tights’. What the heck are tights in America, then??

          1. Jemima Bond*

            Oh god me too! We need definitions. Possibly links to products for sale that we can view.
            What I would call tights, that is, nylon or Lycra hosiery that goes from your toes to your waist, might very occasionally have a small cottony section in the gusset but not enough to, er, do the job of pants (by which of course I mean knickers, panties, underwear, smalls). I’d never wear them without knickers owing to, well, the unpleasant experience of thin tight shiny nylon against the ladygarden.

          2. ampersand*

            Tights: Usually a thicker material, come in different colors and sometimes has patterns/designs, worn in winter usually because they’re warmer. Not see through. Wear for fun and warmth!

            Pantyhose: Made of nylon, less thick than tights, come in nude-ish colors (or colors that more match your skin tone than tights). See through, often. Bane of many a woman’s existence. Wear because it’s expected!

      1. Goodbye Toby*

        Oh I just remembered the time I basically peed my pants on the way to an out of town interview, stopped at a CVS to clean up, and also threw away the underwear, and went pantyhose only. It was a job at a court. I had repressed this until now…eek.

    3. Yorick*

      I always have this problem too. I had to do the first phone interview for my current job while on the toilet.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      It wasn’t an interview, but I have a nervous bladder. I had a particularly sensitive doctor’s appointment one day and intentionally did not chug my usual amount of water in the morning for fear I’d pee reflexively at the worst possible moment.

      Ended up getting mildly dehydrated, fainting on the exam table, and having to reschedule.

      1. Beatrice*

        I recently accidentally commented on a coworker’s accidental fart. I normally wouldn’t have said anything, but the plumbing in the building had malfunctioned just a couple of days ago, and I said something like, “oh no, it reeks again, we must have had another overflow!” And then caught a look at the mortification on her face and realized. I feel bad, but all I could do is stop and change the subject.

      2. HB*

        I would almost bet money she said it because she assumed the bathroom it smelled like that before unfortunate went into the bathroom and it was her way of semi-apologizing to them.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          That’s my take. The receptionist herself was embarrassed, probably thinking, “Oh that poor interviewee had to go in there with it smelling like that.”

    5. tcro*

      pro tip – even though the sound of multiple flushes is a little awkward, 2 or 3 flushes can help get rid of lingering stink.

    6. LCH*

      maybe she was embarrassed that the bathroom smelled bad and a guest had just used it. like, she didn’t know you did it. she was trying to cover. although i guess she could have said to you, omg, so sorry our bathroom has a problem!

    7. Shhhh*

      One of my professors in grad school told us a story about a candidate she had once interviewed that had a digestive situation in the middle of his job talk…

      On a slightly different note, I’ve had two interviews now (years apart) on particularly heavy days of my cycle. Nothing disastrous happened, but I was really self-conscious about it.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      You could have agreed with her like “ohhh no I noticed that too, ugh” ;-) (I’m assuming she said it to you!)

    9. Curmudgeon in California*

      I have IBS-D. One of the things that triggers it is stress. I have to make sure that I don’t eat anything that can add to the stress on interview days. I also wear “granny pads” because of stress-based incontinence. All day interviews really push my envelope.

  16. A ducking disaster*

    I was once headhunted for a senior job in my Prime Minister’s office. It would have been a HUGE step up, and they were all ready to hire me…

    I went in to meet my future boss, and it was like I was possessed by a Potty-Mouth Demon. I don’t normally swear! Pretty much every answer I gave to her questions included a swear word:

    “Tell me about a recent challenge you’ve had at work.”
    “This project I inherited was a ducking disaster! I thought to myself, ‘what the duck am I going to do?! Oh dear, for some reason I can’t stop saying duck. I am so ducking sorry!!”

    …I did not get the job.

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      I’m picturing Natalie from Love Actually. “I did have an awful premonition I was going to duck up on my first day!”

  17. cmdrspacebabe*

    I once made it through an entire interview….. before realizing I was in the wrong interview, for a completely different job, with a completely different company that wasn’t even in the same industry.

    My university’s co-op program did interviews on-site, and I had 2 in a row. Interviewer #2 – for the job I actually really wanted, at Company X – mixed up his schedule, and came out at the exact time Interviewer #1 should have arrived for Company Y… so I assumed he WAS Interviewer #1, and answered based on what I’d prepped for Company Y.

    At the end of the interview, he asked, “So why do you want to work for Company X?” and I was so thrown off I completely blanked. I was too flustered to clarify that there’d been a mistake, so I just stammered out a half-assed response while sounding utterly shocked to be asked a completely normal question before awkwardly fleeing the room.

    I did not get the job, and also missed Interview #1 completely.

  18. LadyByTheLake*

    Oh, I was so young. I was in the final running for a position at a Very Important Institution. As a final step in the process, I was having lunch with the president of the institution. As part of preliminary small talk he asked me if I’d read a popular thriller that was tangentially related to my field. My response, “No, my mom read it and said it was trashy and stupid.” It quickly became clear that he’d read it and liked it (and in fairness, I read it later and although it was trashy it was also a lot of fun). The rest of the meal was . . . awkward. Nice way to start — call the president of a major institution trashy and stupid.

    1. ArchivesGremilin*

      I had a very similar situation!!! Turns out one of my interviewers was friends with the author of a book that I hated and apparently didn’t like the fact I didn’t like the book (therefore I hated author. She isn’t the first person I’ve come across to have this opinion. Like WTF. They’re not the same thing! Just because I don’t like a writing style doesn’t mean I don’t like the person *eye roll*). Didn’t the job after that.

      1. Quill*

        I just remembered, not an interview, but a semi-professional occasion when someone mentioned that their favorite author was Ayn Rand and I made a noise that made my opinion on not just her work, but her person, *perfectly* clear.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ugh. I would not want to work for someone who thought Ayn Rand was their favorite author.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        That would have been worse! The author was John Grisham — very popular, not high art, but not worth calling “trashy and stupid,” particularly when it was pretty clear the president was asking to make small talk and try to find a point of common interest. I now know that the correct response would have been to say “no I haven’t gotten to that, have you?”

        1. Scout Finch*

          I had a business relationship with John Grisham when he was still lawyering in MS. Was a stand-up guy.

          I still think “A Time To Kill” was his best book! Even he knows that his work is not high art – and would say so himself.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I was fine with him until he made those remarks about men who look at kid pR0n online. Even though he walked them back, that seriously soured me on him.

        2. Oh No She Di'int*

          Haha! I was going guess that you were in the art field and that the book was “The DaVinci Code”!

    2. Veronica Mars*

      Ohmigawd I relate to this so hard. Not in an interview, thank goodness, just in life. I really don’t know what’s wrong with me, but when I’m in an awkward get-to-know-you meeting with someone, I often manage to insult them in some way. Whether a poorly phrased joke or being too honest without knowing why they’re asking the question. Its just so awful. And I want to melt into the floor immediately.

      And the worst part is, I’m a cripplingly empathetic person. 3 years later I’ll be laying wide awake at 2am reliving every time I ever accidentally insulted another person and just wondering why I’m like this. I tearfully told my husband last week about how upset I was about this one time in 2015 I told his friend’s parents “But we have so much longer left to live and make money” as a justification for why we should pick up the restaurant check… and my husband didn’t even remember it.

      1. louise*

        Omg. I too remember in the middle of the night terrible things I’ve said and will get the strangest stabs of panic of ancient transgressions.

      2. ampersand*

        “But we have so much longer left to live and make money” is absolutely amazing. I mean, statistically it’s true!

        And hilarious.

    3. louise*

      Oh dear, I had blocked this memory: my favorite professor set up an informational interview for me with the editor-in-chief of a publishing house. He asked me if I’d read a particular non fiction book, that author’s second, and I replied that I had but was disappointed in it as it was such a different format from his first, all lists and how-to’s instead of the compelling true stories he’d told in his first book.

      The different feel was because the author had a co-author on the second book: the editor-in-chief himself.

    4. Existentialista*

      I had a similar experience in one of my few brushes with celebrity in my life. I was an arrogant undergraduate, on a plane on the way home for break. The nice man in the seat next to me asked me what I was studying.

      Me: English. I’m going to be a Writer.*
      Him: Oh, really? I’m a writer.
      Me: Oh, really? What do you write?
      Him: Thrillers. Medical thrillers.
      Me: Oooohhhh.
      Him: Have you read any?
      Me: Well, I’ve SEEN them…
      Him: Which ones have you seen?
      Me: Well, you know, “Coma”
      Him, Yeah, I wrote “Coma”.

      Turns out I was sitting next to Robin Cook. He spent the rest of the flight answering fan mail, and I’ve spent the rest of my life mortified.

      *I did not ever become a Writer.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        My best friend went to a book signing by a well known author and got a book autographed for me. He asked her what she liked about the book, and she bluntly said she didn’t but was able to quickly add she liked a different series of his (which was true). Fortunately he took it well and alluded to it in the message to me. :-)

  19. I LOVE LEARNING*

    When I was about to graduate from college, I interviewed for a job with a government agency that I remember almost nothing about except they had a subsidized cafeteria, which was a major selling point for me. I wasn’t even remotely qualified for the work they did and at one point was so stumped by something they asked that I just shouted “I LOVE LEARNING.” That didn’t work out so well for me.
    Surprisingly, I did get a job at the government agency where I literally FELL ASLEEP during one of the many long, boring interview rounds. The job was not any more exciting than the interview process.

      1. Quill*

        “I see that I Love Learning is already well adapted to our office environment, where many people develop boredom-induced narcolepsy.”

    1. Sinister Serina*

      Please tell me more about literally falling asleep during the long and boring interview process-details, please!

    2. First-time commenter*

      I have two sleeping-in-interviews stories!

      1. College interview. College was out of state, but a local interviewer came to my parents’ house to interview me. We had just gotten cats and I was allergic to them so right before the interviewer showed up, I took Benadryl, figuring it would be a 30 min. interview and I’d be ok. 2 hours later, interviewer was still talking and I was fast asleep in Benadryl-induced haze. Did not get in.

      2. Phone interview for an internship abroad. Because of the time zones, the interview was scheduled for 8 AM my time. Interviewer called and woke me up and it was completely obvious. Got the job though!

  20. Hallowflame*

    In my first interview for a job post-college (before I went back to school and completely changed careers) I was asked some sort of get-to-know-you personal question and ended up going on and on about my ex boyfriend and what he had been doing since the breakup. I’m shocked my interviewers even bothered asking me to submit a writing sample after that.

    1. Catwoman*

      Oh God, I had one of those just after college and getting out of a 5-year relationship. The question was something along the lines of tell us about a difficult situation you have overcome or something like that. And I went on and on about this relationship and why I was happy to be out of it. Ugggggghhhhh, still makes me cringe.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Okay, this one’s my favorite and made me laugh so hard. I work with teenagers and I am definitely sharing this one with my social skills class tomorrow. Thank you!

  21. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Interviewed while running a not-insignificant fever. It was a telepresence interview, so I wasn’t at risk of making the interviewer sick, but I was holding it all together by my fingernails and could barely string words together. At the time I had no idea just how off my game I was, but after I recovered a bit, I reviewed my memories of how I answered the questions and couldn’t stop cringing at everything I missed. Very simple knowledge-check questions became nearly impossible because I just couldn’t put two and two together, and if I felt like an answer was too short, I repeated myself nearly word-for-word to make it longer.

  22. Rose*

    When I was applying for my first professional job, I had no idea about the best version of the truth–I was just deadly honest. They asked me for my worst flaw and I told them everything I thought was wrong with me. EVERYTHING. I didn’t get the job, of course, and the interviewer actually called one of my references and told her to teach me some proper interviewing skills. I’m sort of convinced that woman saved my career.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      This is actually a wonderful, helpful story. Being too forthcoming is one of my students’ biggest struggle – I cannot wait to share this one!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It’s so different from what you learn in education where you ought to answer teachers’, instructors’, other authority figures’ questions honestly or face consequences.

        I’m not sure where most people learn the difference between “norms that apply while you are a student” and “norms relevant to the workplace” actually?

    2. Quill*

      First job interview after my internship, they asked “what’s your greatest flaw” and I admitted “Rampant anxiety.”

  23. Gallery Mouse*

    Oh, have I ever been there!

    About 10 years ago I interviewed at a company that I had always dreamed of working at. They had an excellent reputation across the industry and there was growth potential as well as the possibility of a better salary.

    I showed up on time, I dressed the part and had my answers down. I was excited and nervous however nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. The interview took place at a ground floor office with a large glass wall/window facing the street. I sat facing the window and the two interviewees whos backs were to the said glass wall/window. As we neared the end of the Q&A I was about to answer when a pigeon flew into the glass wall and dropped dead!!! The ‘thud’ was very faint and they didnt notice however they DID notice my face changing into a look of shock and horror. I was about to blurt out ‘a pigeon just flew into the window and died…’ and that did come out of my mouth as the pigeon got up…tossed it’s neck around…and flew away.

    They turned around to look and saw nothing. They then turned back to face me and said “thanks for coming by…we’ll be in touch.” I never did hear back from them. Sigh.

    1. Threeve*

      That was almost definitely a sign from the universe. Getting that job would have been catastrophic in some way you couldn’t have foreseen.

      1. Hedgehug*

        bahaha I’m imagining the pigeon screaming “Don’t do it!!!” while diving the window to stop the interview.

    2. Mathilde*

      A similar thing happened to me during a violin audition. It was really hot and the window was opened. The jury was taking notes, not looking at me.
      I was playing, a wasp entered the room, came straight at me, flew around my head. I stopped playing, and when the jurors rose their head, that as*hole wasp had already flown out of the window.
      I was left standing, with the bow in the air as I had used it to defend myself against the beast, started to say “there was a wasp” but felt stupid as I was saying it, so I just took my violin and picked up where I left.

    3. TiffIf*

      A number of years ago, in the middle of a quiet contemplative moment at church, there was suddenly a very loud thud of a bird against one of the windows that the ENTIRE congregation saw.

      1. qjames*

        I witnessed this once during a very quiet contemplative service at a rural monastery ;-; definitely a memento mori moment…

    4. Not So NewReader*

      hmmm. A carrier pigeon with a message for you?

      At an old place I lived, a neighbor begged me to help bury a dead partridge that flew into the window before her kids found it. It turned out I was going to bury the bird and she was going to watch me. I somehow did that.

      I would have been done with that interview whether they were or not. Just nope-nope-nope. Not going sit in that meeting room day after day and watch wildlife try to off themselves. Not enough money in the world…..

      1. Gallery Mouse*

        You know, I think you all have a really good point.

        That interview went south for a reason for sure! I’ve also never seen a pigeon recover like that. Truly amazing!
        :)

  24. Whoops*

    A number of years back when I was fresh out of college and really needed work experience/money, I had an interview for a low-level job at a Big Tech Company. When I arrived, the receptionist offered me water, which came in the form of a water bottle that exploded all over my crotch when I opened it, which coincidentally was also the moment they called me back for the interview. I was mortified but got the job.

    1. Wet Spots*

      Uh yeah. Versions of this have happened to me a couple of times (never in an interview situation, but right before presentations and meetings). The only technique I’ve come up with is to splash myself in other places that are clearly non-crotch related. There may be no good explanation for why I have wetness in my crotch and on my shoulder, but at least you can rule out a pee-pee incident!

  25. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    My dad got me an interview right after college with a company in the city. I took the bus downtown and met with the guy who, I guess, ran the place. I don’t know. I don’t know what the company did or what I would do there. I just knew that Jane who worked with my dad ten years earlier and bumped into him on the street told my dad to send me down on Thursday and interview with Bob. So I did.
    Bob was surprised that Jane recommended anyone to work there. She didn’t like people and she didn’t think the company needed more people. So we talked about that for awhile. Then I saw he had a mug with an organization I was interested in so I mentioned that. And we awkwardly talked about that for a bit, because I hadn’t joined yet so I didn’t really know much about it and he didn’t want to talk about it. And then we kind of sat there with him not talking about the company and me not asking about the company, until enough time had passed that I could go home.
    They never called about that job.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      PS: OP, this is the least embarrassing interview fail and the only I’m willing to share. So yeah, get back out there. I’m posting this from my computer at not my dream job but the best job for me. The right job will come along for you.

    2. PopJunkie42*

      You just made me remember a horrible lunch I had after I graduated college. I had studied art and museums and wanted to work in non-profits related to art. My dad was very stressed about this (understandably I suppose…) and set me up with lunch with one of his friends who ran a big hotel chain in the city. But me being clueless and him not really communicating well with me – I thought she was going to, I don’t know, give me job tips on how she could see hospitality services overlapping with museums? I think it was actually an interview. So when she asked if I was interested in working in hotels I said no (rather sullenly) and we just sort of awkwardly struggled through the rest of lunch.

  26. Kevin S*

    I have a degree from a for-profit university, which I know isn’t great but alas. I was interviewing for a dream job at a Fortune 500 employer. I met all the requirements for education and experience. I landed a job interview and it was three interviews, the first with the colleagues to the open position, the second with the boss to the open position and the third with the grandboss to the open position.

    Long story short, I nailed the first two interviews. Grandboss walks in, says he doesn’t have a lot of time, looks at my resume, and immediately starts pestering me on my alma mater, its accreditation (regional vs. national), asking why I would spend money to go there and saying he felt they were defrauding the federal government by letting people borrow Stafford loans to go there. I tried to spin it positively by saying I went there in the early days of “online college” and it fit my life/work schedule at the time, and then talking about all my relevant work experience since then. But he clearly wasn’t interested. Obviously I didn’t get the job. The whole experience was a belittling nightmare but you live and you learn.

    1. Kevin S*

      Follow up, I ended up working at a logistics services firm that had the Fortune 500 company as a client and we had to audit a bunch of FedEx shipments that were being sent to the grandboss from the interview. I sort of got a kick that the guy’s name later came up in my professional life.

    2. Threeve*

      I had a total mirror-universe experience! I went to an accredited private college that lost its accreditation thanks to some really shady behavior from its governance. Most alumni were pretty outraged.

      Not long after it happened, I was asked about it in an interview, in a totally mild making-conversation kind of way…and I could not stop myself from venomously trashing the school at some length.

      At best, I probably seemed seriously negative. At worst, slightly unhinged. Did not get the job.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        “At best, I probably seemed seriously negative. At worst, slightly unhinged.”

        This cracked me up. I’m pretty sure we have all had conversations that fit this description.

  27. Jennifer*

    When I was younger, I thought it was really smart to pretend my weaknesses were really strengths, like Michael Scott. When I was asked to name weaknesses, I said I’m TOO nice and I care TOO much. It never worked.

    In my defense, that is a stupid question. Stop asking people that.

    1. patricia*

      I always used the old “I’m too much of a perfectionist” answer, which in my defense happens to be a little true in my case, but I still cringe to think how many times I gave that answer.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Ugh, I used it at my first ever interview. And I am not even close to being a perfectionist! I am as Type-B as they come.

      2. Quill*

        Gave that one too, though in my case it’s less about perfectionism and more about DON’T DUCKING RUSH ME.

      3. Veronica Mars*

        Yep, its literally my biggest weakness but there is no way to frame it in a genuine way. I’ve started to go with “I’m a little too intense” which also fits my greater personality traits that lead to the aforementioned perfectionism. I know thats, like, a pretty big weakness to clue people in on. But I think its saved me from a few jobs I’d be a truly terrible cultural fit for.

      4. Curmudgeon in California*

        I remember the first time I got asked that. I thought about it, and answered that I was too much of a perfectionist – because it was actually my worst trait. I didn’t understand “good enough”, so would either do a thing perfectly, or not at all.

    2. R*

      Respectfully disagree it’s a stupid question. Sometimes I want to know how self aware a person is. If someone genuinely believes they have no weaknesses, I really really don’t want to hire them. I also might want to talk through how they have/are working to overcome said weakness.

      1. Jennifer*

        I know I have many, MAAAAAAAAAANY weaknesses lol. I think it’s common knowledge that everyone has them. I guess I’d prefer they ask, “what are your goals for development/improvement?” Maybe it’s nitpicky but “weaknesses” just makes me think of Superman and kryptonite.

      2. fposte*

        It’s not a stupid thing to want to know, but it’s a bad way of getting to that because people are too likely to have scripted answers that won’t tell you anything useful.

        1. R*

          Agree there are ways to ask it that work. And ways that don’t. True story though: my Dad had an interview once and came home confused why they had asked him this question. Because he doesn’t have any weaknesses!

          1. Ayko*

            Well, there are people (like me) who don’t view ourselves in terms of “weaknesses.”

            I mean, sure, I know nothing about cars and would make an awful mechanic; I’m slow at math and don’t enjoy it at all so would be a lousy accountant; nor do I have the patience to manage people. But I also don’t apply for those jobs so it’s neither applicable nor a weakness, just me being different from other people and crafting my job search to suit me. I don’t need to be a good mechanic when there are people who ARE good mechanics — I just value their being different from me, because how else could I get my car fixed?

            I may have little patience for dishonest people in my personal life, but I leave the personal at home, plus there are generally structured avenues to resolve such problems in an office, so I don’t need to lose patience when I have recourse and can just kick the problem up the chain.

            I wish I had the physical strength and agility of a gymnast, but we’re talking about an office job so….

            I may get bored easily, but that generally makes me seek out stuff to do / ways to help. And if there’s nothing available, I know how to keep my mouth shut about it. (Also this comes as a consequence of intelligence and curiosity — my brain needs exercise — so I’d hardly consider THAT a weakness.)

            So yes, I’d be hard-pressed to find a weakness that in any way would affect my productivity at work. I’m basically just trying to guess at what someone else might consider a weakness — so I guess my weakness is I’m bad at figuring out what and why people think of others in terms of “that’s BAD” rather than “that’s different” without tacking on the negative value judgment. :D

            I’m pretty laid back and am a big fan of open communication, and I’m pretty good and efficient at what I do. I seek out jobs that align with my strengths — doesn’t everyone? So I just generally find the question confusing (or rather, the insistence upon asking it confusing, since I can’t imagine it elicits much in the way of useful information). To me it’s just such a foreign approach to another human being that I don’t know what to do with it. I’m sure every time I’ve had to answer this question it came off as lame. Thankfully it’s not a really common question anymore, although that may be because I’m well past entry-level these days.

            The first time I was ever asked this was in an interview when I was in high school, and I was so completely confused by the question. I was shocked because it made me seriously question if the interviewer was trying to bully me.

            1. Jennifer Juniper*

              I thought it was a character test to see if the candidate possessed humility and would not be arrogant.

          2. Fake Eleanor*

            Makes me think of The Office when Gabe asked Kelly what her weaknesses are and she said “I don’t have any, a**hole!”

      3. Massmatt*

        The problem is the way the question is phrased, especially using the word “weakness”. The interviewee has no frame of reference to know whether you actually want an honest and introspective answer, or would treat that as an admission of failure. Many of the people asking this question seem to want some variation of “I work too hard!”, and will penalize an honest answer. Especially if their office decor consists of motivational posters.

        If you want to know how a candidate deals with adversity, or overcomes a challenge, or what they have been working on to improve professionally, “tell me your greatest weakness” is really a terrible way to find out.

      4. Senor Montoya*

        Agree. We try to ask more specific versions of that however, such as talk about a time when you discovered errors in your work. Worst answer: I don’t make errors in my work, I’m too much of a perfectionist and always check and double check.

        Yeah, no. You are a human being, you make mistakes. If you’re young/entry level, you have made mistakes because you don’t know stuff yet. If you are older/mid-level, you have made mistakes because you have had more opportunities to make mistakes.

      5. Det. Charles Boyle*

        The problem is, people are not going to be completely honest about their weaknesses at an interview b/c they want the job. They’re going to provide a “weakness” that they can spin into a positive. So it’s just not a very good question. A better way to go about finding out about the interviewee is to ask better questions and check references.

        1. nate333*

          No, the problem is every positive trait can be spinned into a negative one and vice versa.

          It’s not just about perfectionism.

      6. Gumby*

        Here’s my problem: my legit worst work-related weakness is that I will stay at a job long past when it makes sense for me to move on for my own professional development. Years past. And it’s probably not the greatest idea to go into a job interview all “and so to address this weakness I am vowing to leave my next job within 6 months of the time it becomes clear that there is no more opportunity for growth.”

    3. annakarina1*

      It reminds me of Brooklyn-Nine-Nine where Captain Holt asks Amy to name her weaknesses and it was like that. “I work too hard? I care too much?”

    4. Texan In Exile*

      I completed an online application that asked, “Describe your three most recognizable negative personality characteristics.”

      I wanted to answer, “I will immediately say out loud to this sort of thing, ‘This is stupid.'”

    5. Socrates Johnson*

      My very first job was right out of college and they were specifically looking for entry level – right out of college. So I said my weakness was that I didn’t have any corporate experience. The interviewer actually argued with me and said “well you come here looking professional, you sound professional, etc”. It was a compliment but sounded like she was scolding me. 19 years later still at the same company and she became my boss :)

      I still think my answer was good. LOL.

    6. 1234*

      I think I answer this question with “I tend to want to get things done and will make decisions without waiting for all of the information, and sometimes I would’ve made a different choice if I had just waited. I try to work on this by asking myself ‘Do you have all of the information you need before deciding which direction to go in?'”

  28. Pickled Watermelon*

    In early September 2015 I was informed that I would be laid off at the end of the month. I was able to secure an interview at a company practically across the street for October 2. They were trying out a new skills test thing in Excel. I’m really good at Excel but I only got a 70% on the test because you have to solve the problems with a specific set of steps that might be different from how you would do it in the real world (HR guy assured me that 70% was actually pretty good because they were still calibrating the test). Then came the actual interview. It was bad. It was for a job that I had all the skills and experience for. I should have killed it. But the interviewers were a bit inert and that seeped into me. Plus I recognize now that I was most likely suffering from depression related to the old job. I felt so bad about my interview, I called my former colleague who had passed around my CV to apologize to her for potentially making her look bad. I actually refrained from job searching for the next 3 months (thank you generous severance package and money hoarder tendencies) to just take some time off and recover from burn out. Once I got back in the game, I was able to quickly land a consulting position that carried me through to the May 2016 when I started a full time job that I’m still at and quite happy with.

    Oh, also in 2000 when I was finishing up grad school I was applying left, right, and center, to jobs in my industry (which is kinda small). I had an interview at Company A and the interviewer said “I see you’ve also applied to Company B” because the mail merge I was using in my cover letters failed and the cover letter mentioned Company B. I got the job at Company A and was there for 6 years before moving to Company B.

    1. Elitist Semicolon*

      Ooo, I did this one for an academic job. Institution B called me for a phone interview, which went fine, and then scheduled an on-campus visit. When I got there, they said, “Did you realize you told us how much you’d like to teach at Institution A?” I was horrified and stammered out an apology, and they did not let me forget it the entire time I was there. The search chair kept saying things like, “You’re lucky we gave you this interview” and “if your credentials weren’t so strong, we’d never have called you.”

      It was an all-over terrible experience. They made the flight arrangements and I told them that I’d prefer not to fly through O’Hare because flights to and from my city via O’Hare are cancelled ALL the damn time. But they had to because of their state’s procurement requirements and of course my flight out was cancelled, so I missed the entire first day of what was supposed to be a two-day visit; when I landed that evening, the search chair picked me up at the airport, asked me how the flight was, then interrupted me to say, “I read your work on X. It’s very good!” And I thought, well, I hope so, since you’re interviewing me for a job to teach X. Then he kept patting me on the shoulder. THEN he was reluctant to arrange any sort of dinner for me, since (in his opinion) it was so late that the folks who were supposed to meet us for the dinner part of the interview had probably eaten. THEN the next day they didn’t give me a chance at all to use the restroom (I had to explicitly ask, “could we take a break so I could visit the restroom?”), the lunch was leftover sandwiches from the lunch interview I’d missed the day before, and the search chair kept me in his office until 45 minutes before my boarding time for the flight back because “it’s only a half-hour drive and the lines are never long.” I got to my gate about a minute before they closed the door.

      They offered me the job anyway. I didn’t take it for so, so many reasons.

    2. Sleve McDichael*

      That gives you a perfect answer to the ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ question discussed above. Mail merges!

  29. Another Millenial*

    One time, while still in college, I applied for a job that I thought looked great on paper. That was before I knew about MLM and pyramid schemes. The room was full of applicants, and they were just interviewing them back to back. The questions were loaded and had nothing to do with the job description. That’s not the bad part though.

    I don’t make a habit of looking down at my own chest, and hadn’t looked in the mirror between leaving the house and entering the office.

    My blouse had somehow come undone and my underthings were completely exposed. The male interviewer never told me–I saw myself in the reflection of the glass door as I was leaving.

    But there have been times in interviews where they ask me a simple question and my mind just… blanks… and I sit there, staring inwards at my vacant brain asking myself why I’m like this.

    1. Antennapedia*

      “But there have been times in interviews where they ask me a simple question and my mind just… blanks… and I sit there, staring inwards at my vacant brain asking myself why I’m like this.”

      This made me laugh so hard and also: GIRL, SAME.

    2. Glacier*

      “But there have been times in interviews where they ask me a simple question and my mind just… blanks… and I sit there, staring inwards at my vacant brain asking myself why I’m like this.”

      This is the absolute BEST way to describe that feeling. WHY. wwwhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyy

  30. Sara*

    I interviewed with a B2B magazine right out of college, which likely wouldn’t have been a good fit regardless if I aced the interview. But it was downtown, paid more than the job I had and seemed interesting.
    The interviewer asked “What motivates you?” and I completely blanked on what could possibly motivate me to do a job well, so I said “Making my parents proud”. He said something like “Wow, interesting response. Most people say money”. I thought, yeah that makes a lot more sense. And I teared up a bit because I was embarrassed, which made the whole thing derail even more because he noticed me getting upset.
    The happy ending to that story is I ended up taking an ESL Teaching job out of the country a month later, so it all worked out for the best.

    1. Sara*

      Oh I also once answered the question “Where do you see yourself in five years” with ‘teaching overseas, my dream is to teach abroad”. That did not go over well.

      1. V*

        Hahaha, yes, one time I asked a candidate for an entry-level graduate software engineering role “What is your five-year trajectory?”. He responded “To be perfectly honest, by then I hope I will have made enough money to be able to live in the Alps and work as a ski instructor during the season and never have to write software for money again.”

      2. queequeg in his coffin*

        I once told an insurance company that I was planning to enroll in library school, because I’d always wanted to be a librarian. They did not hire me and it took a long time for me to realize that that was probably why — they wanted someone who wanted to sell insurance! Imagine that. (I did eventually become a librarian though.)

      3. Elitist Semicolon*

        My retired mother applied for a part-time job as a page at our local library just to have something to do during the day and got this question. She said something like, “I’m 65 and retired. This isn’t a career path for me.” They didn’t call her back. (But that librarian was replaced about a year later, so.)

      4. MonteCristo85*

        My dad was being interviewed for a promotion and they asked him the 10 year question. His response of “I will consider my life a complete failure if I still work here in 10 years” was not exactly what they were looking for.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        I hate that question so I always answer it with a joke about being a bestselling author. They laugh and that gives me a second to load my prepared answer, which I always feel sounds too rote.

      6. CM*

        But isn’t it kind of fucked up that we’re all supposed to lie and say we want things we don’t want?

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          They want you to lie to see how well you’ll display engagement and buy-in to everything they say, regardless of how you feel.

  31. Phil's coworker*

    I didn’t bomb this interview, but this may be one of my most awkward interview moments.

    After completing a presentation during an interview, one of the attendees asked (I thought), “When you worked at the Blahblah Library, did you work with Phil?” I had, in fact, worked with Phil, but only a little, and started talking about that. After a minute, he interrupted me, and clarified that he’d actually asked if I’d worked with FILM. The library had a very noted film collection, and this was a legitimate question. I laughed. The other attendees laughed. We all had a good time with it and it continued to be a story the whole time I worked there.

    1. JJ*

      I love this! As a freelancer, I have “interviews” all the time at the start of projects, so it’s a lot easier now to find it funny when like, the cat decides to waltz in front of the camera or whatever. Practice really DOES make it all easier and help you remember this is just a regular meeting and you’re allowed to be a person.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That sort of occurrence always makes me think of BBC Dad (political analyst on inter-Korean affairs Robert E. Kelly, whose young children interrupted him during a BBC interview he did from his home office) and I will never stop laughing at that video.

        1. Happily Self Employed*

          There’s also a scientist being interviewed whose cat climbs up him and drapes itself over his shoulders while he’s talking about something serious.

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          The best part of the video was his wife crawling on the ground trying to wrangle the children!

    2. Dramatic Squirrel*

      Most recent experience, flying to another country for an interview, flights were delayed due to weather and ended up arriving 3.5 hours late for my interview. I got the job and the calm way I dealt with it and kept them informed was a factor.

      Quite afew years ago my life was in a tough place in every way. I had been unemployed for a year and was absolutely desperate. Morning of the interview I wake up really ill with a bad cold. I had asked a relative who lived near the venue for directions. Followed them and arrived at the venue 30 mins early. Thought it was a bit quiet considering how many people work there. 10 mins before interview is scheduled I go into the building and tell the receptionist why I am there And I get a blank look. She eventually realises that I am in the wrong branch because they have 2 offices in this suburb. She can give me the address but she has no idea how to get to the other one. I drive around unfamiliar streets for 20 mins (pre-google maps era) searching before calling a friend to look it up on a map for me. I eventually arrive an hour late. I realise that I will not get an interview now but I don’t want them to think I am a flake so I go in to explain…and mid explanation I just burst into tears. I am now a sodden, heaving, choking , snot ridden mess. They actually interviewed me, out of pity I think. I didn’t get the job but I did get a great opportunity shortly afterward

      Last one is the story of a friend of a friend. Turns up at retail shop at pre-arranged time, for interview with the owner for a sales position. Introduces himself.
      Owner: so you climbed Mount Everest!
      Candidate: ahh, no, I didn’t
      Owner: You did, it’s right here on your CV
      Candidate: I definitely have not climbed Mount Everest
      Owner: So, why would you put it on your CV then, angrily thrusting CV at him
      Candidate: That is not my CV
      It just went downhill from there

    3. SophieChotek*

      Reminds me of a relative – a town in my state is referred to by natives as Alec.
      My relative was a teacher and interviewing for a position.
      When the interviewer asked her “What do you think of Alec?”
      She thought it was acronym for some new educational tool/model (as I recall), so went on about how she didn’t/was not familiar with ALEC but did know (others) and would be happy to get up-to-speed on ALEC.

  32. Lobsterfordinner*

    One of my first interviews after college went horribly. He asked me about my major in college (which was organizational communications). He ask about what this was and for some reason, even though I spent nearly 4.5 years studying it I blanked.

    Me: Its uummmm how organizations and businesses communicate
    Him: How so?
    Me: Well like how to do interviews and stuff, and how to communicate in a business fashion (WTF 22 year old me, not its not!!!0
    Him: Ok can you give me an example
    Me: well like if your boss orders lobster at a business dinner, its like how to know what to order…. (again WTF 22 year old me! You just wrote papers and presentations on this!!! You know this)
    Him: ok, lets move on

    Seriously how could I bomb it that BAD?!?

  33. Aunt Piddy*

    I had been practicing law for about five years and was looking to make a change. A friend got me an interview at a large firm that had a reputation for being a personal injury mill. My friend LOVED working there, though, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

    At first, the interviewer (a much older man) and I were completely sympatico on everything. I was actually feeling pretty good about the place! Then he asked me what I thought a normal workweek would look like (which is usually my question). I described a pretty normal 50-60 hour week with weekends if needed and HE STARTED LAUGHING. Then he went outside, called someone else in, told them what I’d said, and they BOTH started laughing at me.

    He went on to say that the job would be 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, mandatory, and implied that I was lazy. At that point I was DONE, so I deadpanned, “What’s your retention rate like?”

    He did not answer, but he did turn bright red, and I left. I found out later that he told my friend I “didn’t seem very interested in the job”. She was surprised to hear what had transpired.

      1. Quill*

        Wait, was this a lawyer for personal injury position and not a position where people kept being hurt on the job?

        1. Aunt Piddy*

          LOL, no it was a firm that specialized in personal injury. One of those heavily advertised “1-800 CASH NOW” type plaintiff firms that runs through new law grads like crazy.

          1. Quill*

            Look, all I’m saying is that with hours like that they were building the case against themselves..

  34. NewWorkingMama*

    I once interviewed for a magazine within a company I was already interning at (different magazine but it was a small company). A friend of mine had recommended me for the job. Since I already worked at the company and had an in, I assumed the job was basically mine (dying of cringe now). When I went in to interview with the Editor in Chief, she asked me a few questions and then asked me what I knew about the magazine. I had skimmed it, but hadn’t really learned anything about the audience or mission. I stumbled around for a bit before she took pity and told me what they did. Needless to say, I did not get the job, but I never made that mistake again.

    1. MousePrincess*

      I did something similar with an internal job too! I had never really been rejected from anything before and was actually surprised when I didn’t get the job which I was not qualified for and did not interview well for! Oh to be 25 again.

    2. Filosofickle*

      In college I interviewed for a Rotary scholarship to study abroad. The lead guy asked me what I knew about Rotary…which was nothing. He stared intently at me and asked something to the effect of, “Don’t you think it’s a good idea to learn something about an organization when you’re asking them for money?” I didn’t get the scholarship, unsurprisingly. But I’m so glad this happened early on, before it really mattered — I never ever made a mistake like that again.

    1. The Original K.*

      I was being interviewed by the other two people in the department (I’d met with the head of the department already), two women who were the same age with the same title and similar-sounding, fairly common names. I realized as they were talking that I knew the names but I didn’t know which one was which. I was able to fake it, though, and I got the job. A few months in, I actually told them that and it became a running joke. Apparently they’d even started on the same day so lots of people got them confused.

  35. Mr. Tyzik*

    I dressed up in a sportcoat and tie (I’m a ciswoman who usually presents female but had a passing Annie Hall phase). I was late. I was sweaty. I rambled in my answers. I wanted the job badly. It was in management and I had been performing in an interim role.

    I didn’t get the job. I was told I was too analytical for people management but had a great talent for problem solving and should go into business analysis. In my case, the leader recommended me for an opportunity which I accepted, and that was the start of a new career.

  36. Engineer*

    Interview with a major beer company was going pretty well, until the last question that should have been an ace in the bag!!
    “Why do you want to work for major beer company”
    Me – “I really like beer!”

    Did not hear back from them. Interviewer was probably looking for some more substance then hearing about my love for beer.

    1. Elitist Semicolon*

      I was on an interview committee once that received a letter in which the first two paragraphs were a pretty standard articulation of skills and examples but the third paragraph was all about the applicant’s love of beer and home brewing. The fourth paragraph stated how much he wanted to work for Local Brewery and be part of the growing company. Okay, but he was applying for a job in an academic department. Which he had identified in the first paragraph.

  37. Goodbye Toby*

    Interviewing at a law firm in college. Took a weird, giant 31 bag with my name embroidered on it (idk, I was young, someone gave it to me). Then told my interviewer that the other side of the office was nicer. He worked on the side with the worse view. Also, got my ears pierced the day before the interview, again no clue why. Still got the job and have worked here for years!

  38. Nancy Drew*

    I had a low-stakes phone interview for a non-profit. It was already bad because I basically begged for the interview (mistake #1). I had to leave work early to take it and ended up doing it in my car in a convenience store parking lot, so I was distracted and unprepared (mistake #2). The kicker is when I was asked what’s a negative thing your coworkers might think of you (paraphrased), I responded with: They probably think I’m a b*tch (BIG mistake #3).

    I probably would have done really well at that job but I was so desperate to leave my toxic company and I didn’t start reading AAM that I did not handle that application process with grace.

    1. Sal*

      oof, #3. You have my sympathies. What do you even say if you hear yourself while you’re saying it? “…But that’s because THEY’RE the REAL b*tches!” …Nope, didn’t help.

  39. DS*

    I was unemployed and desperate so I interviewed for a call centered job with an insurance company. It quickly became apparent in the interview that I didn’t want to work for them and they didn’t want to hire me, but we still went through all 11 pages of questions. At some point both interviewers set their question/scoring sheets down on the table and I could see just how low they were scoring me on every question. It was humiliating and demoralizing. And then to top it all off, I was complaining to a family member about what a horrible experience it was and their response was to list everything they thought I probably did wrong in the interview. It’s been 15 years and I still can’t forget the whole horrible day.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Sometimes family just isn’t helpful. At all.
      So sorry…

      I bet you’d have no problem ending an interview like that now, as soon as you realized it wasn’t going to work.

  40. Oceanberry*

    I was working in an admin role for a professional services firm, with a goal of moving into marketing. An entry-level role in the marketing department opened up and I interviewed for it. Unfortunately, the hiring manager for the role was obsessed with Disney princesses and spent the entire interview quizzing me about the princesses and their movies. I was not very knowledgeable in this area and was unable to answer most of the questions. (Disney was not a client of the firm, nor did the role involve supporting or marketing to any entertainment industry clients, but the hiring manager only wanted people on her team who were aligned with her interests.) Thus, I completely bombed the interview. Even worse, the hiring manager told my admin manager that I was “unprepared to the point of being disrespectful for wasting everyone’s time,” resulting in a strong suggestion that I move on from the company altogether. I did just that about a month later, and although I have gone on to have a very successful marketing career, I still look back on that day as one of the worst of my work life.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Wow, she sounds unhinged. I think I’d look back at that as one of the ‘bullets dodged’ in my work life.

    2. Lisa B*

      That is *mind-boggling* batsh!t crazy of the interviewer. I so hope that you told your admin manager the full story!

      1. Oceanberry*

        I did, and she said something like, “Oops, I should have mentioned Jane’s obsession with Disney princesses and that you might want to read up/watch all the movies in advance of the interview.” But the marketing director in question was Very Powerful within the company, so was able to persuade others that I was a bad fit for the company, generally…oh well, their loss!

        1. Blarg*

          Not “I should have warned you she’s crazy and you shouldn’t join her team”?? That’s the only acceptable response.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      What? I mean, what?

      I’m just going to come out with my first, last and most judgmental thought, which is that she was a whackjob.

    4. WellRed*

      “Unfortunately, the hiring manager for the role was obsessed with Disney princesses and spent the entire interview quizzing me about the princesses and their movies.”

      Um, what? I was just sort of skimming responses but that phrase certainly caught my eye.

      1. WellRed*

        And now I wonder if insisting on hiring only those with an interest in Disney princesses is like some of those other letters we get where people are warned not to create an overly exclusive, non-diverse culture. But, I have no idea how universal Disney princess fandom is.

      2. Oceanberry*

        Yes, the questions were like – What Disney princess do you most identify with? Which Disney villains would you most or least want as your boss? Which Disney princess outfits would be most or least appropriate for our office? What’s your favorite line from [each of several Disney movies] and why? Stuff that had NOTHING to do with the job, or with marketing generally.

        I tried to adapt the questions/answers to talking about the fairy tales that had inspired the movies, when possible…but the interviewer got angry and said she was talking about movies, not books, and obviously I didn’t have attention to detail.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Oh goodness I can only imagine the kinds of answers you made! Disney HEAVILY sanitized those original stories.

        2. pamela voorhees*

          I could not refrain from answering that Ariel’s mermaid outfit would be least appropriate since it consists of a bra and literally nothing else. But also I couldn’t name a line from a Disney movie if a job depended on it (which it shouldn’t, this is hilarious but also the worst).

        3. Jemima Bond*

          Oooof. I’d be sunk, I haven’t seen many Disney cartoon films. I did watch Frozen though (to see what all the hype was about) so I’d end up trying to use that for all answers. “Elsa would be the worst boss as she’d freeze you to death if you made a mistake”. “Olaf’s outfit would be least appropriate for the office as he charges about naked, and I think a carrot nose would be off putting for clients”. “I identify most with Anna as I too would like to build a snowman, right now”.

      1. JJ*

        Oh man but now I’m thinking about it, what if you’d been like “while I DO have the inquisitive nature of Ariel, I like to think of myself as much more of a Belle, due to my practical and intellectual nature. I’m definitely not an Aurora because, while I am kind and even-tempered, I am an early riser. Speaking of nature I’m sooooo in tune with it, though I can’t really decide if I’m a Pocahontas or a Moana lol!” Would the hiring manager have just died of ecstacy on the spot?

        1. Oceanberry*

          I think you have just described the candidate she was looking for! Her office was completely decked out in Disney regalia as well (posters, figurines, etc.).

          1. pamela voorhees*

            I want to take a moment to spare a thought for someone who had to have a serious performance talk, or worse, get fired in this office. “I’m sorry, Darryl, but your numbers just haven’t improved” while Snow White gives you an ice cold uncaring smile.

    5. Michelle*

      We have a manager her who is also crazy about Disney and Disney princesses. Her whole department is all about Disney. One member of her department got on Jeopardy and was doing well. If she answered the final question correctly, she would have won. Guess what the final question was about? A Disney character. I don’t remember the actual question but the answer was Tinkerbell.

    6. 1234*

      I have some friends who would ace that interview but they’re also sane enough to wonder “WTF is wrong with this lady? I’m not interviewing to work at Disney World.”

    7. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      Ugh, so sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, yours is not the only crazy Disney story. My best friend met someone obsessed with Disney princesses, they got married, and because we’re not obsessed with Disney, they stopped hanging out with us or even talking to us. I know other people that talk about pretty much nothing but Disney and it mystifies and honestly kind of scares me. The Cult of Disney is a very real thing.

  41. AnotherAlison*

    There were a few, but the worst interviews I’ve had always seem to follow the same thing. I apply for experience-adjacent job, they go ahead and screen me and bring me in, knowing I don’t have that particular direct experience, and then the interview is a disaster because they keep asking things about the direct experience I don’t have. The most recent version of that (which was still many years ago) involved meeting a recruiter in August and a small company that had changed what they wanted by the time we talked in December. The whole interview was a guessing game of “How do you feel about X? Well, what about Y?” only to find out at the end that what they really wanted now was something I definitely wouldn’t be interested in–things I hadn’t done in 10 years–when the original was more in line with current experience.

    1. MsPantaloons*

      Ah yes I have had this experience!! Last year a recruiter contacted ME out of the blue and did this to me, a 30 minute call where every question went like this:

      Interviewer: Tell me about how you approach X job duty
      Me: Well, as I’ve said in response to literally every question you’ve asked, and as is abundantly clear from my resume and LinkedIn profile, I have no direct experience in X. I have experience in Y, which I approach like this, and I’ve seen successful Xers take this approach.

      He seemed baffled literally every time. It was SO bizarre. I did not get another interview.

    2. Aunt Piddy*

      Ugh, I had one of those. And I even KNEW the guy! He was looking for a relationship manager, and asked me how I would approach the role. I said I wasn’t really clear on whether or not he was looking to manage external relationships with clients or internal relationships within the company. He told me to pick one, so I told him how I would approach a role managing external relationships. Then he said, “Yeah, I was really looking for more of an *internal* relationship manager.” -_-

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’ve never even heard of a role like that, unless that’s an HR type of thing. I’d have assumed external too.

  42. Eigenthing*

    In senior year of college, I once interviewed for a position at a rising startup that had an extremely cool product I was excited to work on.
    They asked me offhand if I had learned so and so mathematical topic, and I, eager to please, mentioned that I had learned it last semester. I expected some questions about projects I had done in the course.
    Instead, what had been a behavioral interview turned into 45 minutes of grilling on that particular mathematical technique as I promptly forgot even the names of basic concepts I had learned.
    Needless to say, I did not get the position.

  43. Lily in NYC*

    Early in my career, I had an interview for a job I really wanted. It was my third round, and this one was with the two top bosses. It was a pretty entry level position and they asked me about my reliability. I answered that “I am anally prompt”. The guys looked at each other and busted out laughing at me. I was so embarrassed that it sounded like I was talking about pooping. Luckily, they didn’t consider it a bomb and I ended up working there for 5 glorious years. Still my best job ever.

    1. CheeryO*

      This makes me think of 500 Days of Summer! “They used to call me anal girl… I was very neat and organized.”

  44. ThatGirl*

    Shortly after I got fired from a newspaper job years ago I was contacted by a major industrial supplier who thought my writing and editing skills would be a good fit for their catalog. And it was honestly a great opportunity, which I completely bombed. I was still anxious over my firing, I did NOT yet have a good answer for why I’d been fired, I was not back into the swing of interviewing yet and I was just a nervous mess. I had other bad interviews during that time period for various reasons, but that one stung the most because I think if I had interviewed well I could’ve had a long and successful career there.

  45. Ladybird*

    I was interviewing for a summer internship during my sophomore year of college. I went to the career fair and had a great conversation with a recruiter at a company, and got called for an on campus interview the next day. This was my first real, professional interview. During the interview, she asked “So why are you interested in Teapots Inc.” and I replied “Oh, I grew up in this region which has a rich history of teapot design, so it’s always sort of been a dream of mine to work in the teapot design industry!” and she said “Well, that’s great but you know we are a teapot manufacturing company, correct?” I was MORTIFIED. I really could not recover after that. Needless to say I did not get that internship. I did get an internship with a company that was my 3rd interview, so all’s well that ends well.

    In a fun twist of events, I was job searching my senior year and ended up interviewing with Teapots Inc again. I NAILED it. I landed the job and still work here, now with a funny story in my pocket :)

    1. Stuff and Nonsense*

      I did something similar at the beginning of my career– I was very invested in the idea of Working For A Nonprofit and Doing Good In the World, and didn’t know much at all about the many different kinds of organizations out there. As far as I was aware, there were Nonprofits, which help small children and puppies, and Corporations, which sell you potato chips and mortgages. So I got an interview, the interviewer asked the “why do you want to work here” question, and I gushed about how much I wanted to work for a nonprofit. “Oh. We’re not a nonprofit.” Turns out they were a private company that made money by helping small children and puppies. Luckily for me, it was a phone interview so I could (silently) bang my head against the desk while trying to recover, but I did not get called back for that job.

      A dozen years down the road, I am pleased to report that I now have a basic grasp of the many types of organizations working in my field.

  46. SpecialSpecialist*

    I had an interview in the development office of one of our state’s public universities. I had grown up in a different part of the state, so it wasn’t really one of the schools that had always been on my radar. It wasn’t the flagship school or the other big name public school that always makes it to the NCAA playoffs, and it wasn’t the public university that was 20 minutes away from me for most of my life. It was one of the University of State at City schools, which me in my mid-twenties naivete decided meant it wasn’t a well known school. And I said so in the interview. Needless to say, I didn’t get a call back for that position. I think I now work with more people who either went to that school for undergraduate or graduate degrees than any other school.

  47. stitchinthyme*

    I thought I left plenty of time to get to an interview at a very small company, but I got confused on the directions (this was before I had a smartphone or GPS) and ended up arriving 15 minutes late. I did have a cell phone at the time, but I’d forgotten to charge it and it was dead, so I left it at home, which meant I couldn’t even call to explain why I was running late. So I get there totally flustered, plus hot and sweaty (it was summer). The company owner was kind, asking me if I wanted to reschedule, but I assured him I was fine and we went on with the interview, then he took me down the road to the job site where I met with some of the team, then back to the office where we talked some more.

    The start time of the interview was already late in the work day, and the company owner was a talker, so by 7pm I was still there. The phone rang, and since the two or three others who worked in the office had gone home, the company owner answered it, then turned to me with a bemused look on his face and said, “It’s for you.” It was my husband, who was worried because I hadn’t come home yet; he saw my cell phone so he knew he couldn’t reach me that way, and the info about where I was interviewing was up on my computer screen, so he called.

    The company owner laughed it off and I did actually get the job offer, but to this day I’m still mortified thinking about it. My husband was very apologetic, but he thought I’d been in a car accident or something and never expected the actual company owner to answer the phone.

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I was late for the interview for my current job!
      At the time, I was in a grad student job without any PTO, and had just had to schedule several days off for cataract surgery (at 25, go figure). I got offered the interview just before surgery, for three days *after* surgery. But because I’d have just taken so much time off, I was only able to take exactly the amount of time needed for the interview, which was in the afternoon. So the plan was, I’d work till noon, run to the subway, get there with about 10 minutes to spare.
      First, the person who was supposed to take over my shift was running late. Then there was a 15 minute wait for the train. I’m underground, so I email the interviewer to let her know.
      Then I get a few stations away where I’m supposed to change to the local train. I get off. I wait. I wait. Eventually, I realize that something’s up and learn that all trains are running express. So I get back on the train, call the interviewer, trying not to cry (we’re aboveground now), and tell her that I’ll be there soon but I need to travel to several stops past the site and then take the opposite train.
      I was about 45 minutes late, but I got the job

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I was over half an hour late to two separate job interviews due to bad directions and no in-route mapping capabilities (both before smartphones) and admittedly poor planning on my part. Both were out of state interviews scheduled for 4-5 hours, so completely unfamiliar territory and I hadn’t ever thought of actually practicing the drive ahead of time, much less leaving with enough time to spare in case of lostness.

      The first one, I showed up only 5 minutes late to the building I was given directions to, which turned out to be the wrong building. So the receptionist was able to call over to the other building and figure it out, as well as let them know what was going on with my lateness. I guess I got a pass for the delay to get to the correct building, and I did get the job.

      The second one, I had a cell phone and called about 5 minutes before I was expected to let them know I apparently missed the correct exit off the highway, which turned out to be the last exit off the highway for 10 miles. By the time I got turned around, navigated to the place, and hiked in from the remote parking lot, I was over half an hour late. Turns out they’re really used to people getting confounded by the similar street names and local traffic, so again it was not held against me and I got the job.

    3. Princess Orange*

      I was an hour late to the interview at my previous job. I was still relatively new to the area, I didn’t have a smartphone or GPS yet (at a point in time where most people did), and I assumed the street signs would be clearer. I hadn’t even saved the business’s phone number in my flip phone, so I couldn’t call until I finally admitted I was lost, pulled into an empty parking lot, and looked the company up on my pay-as-you-go data plan. The owner was super nice about it—the building was pretty hidden, and I wasn’t the first to get lost on the way—but I was absolutely mortified. Somehow I got the job anyhow, and was there for three great years before I had my daughter.

    4. ChemistryDude*

      I was late to a job interview because they put me up in a hotel in a suburb about 25 minutes away from the actual laboratory site. This was 2001 and I was a broke grad student, so I didn’t have a cellphone. I was quite prepared, though, with printouts from Yahoo! Maps showing the most direct route and a backup route to the laboratory. I allowed an hour to make the 25 minute run, because I hate being late. I started merrily on my way, navigating with no problem, until the urban traffic (which had been running a bit slow) ground to a stop. I then moved about half a mile in the next hour. I finally got around a truly impressive accident site and drove rather too quickly to the site. I came into the visitor center in a furious, sweaty rush, and the person I was supposed to meet was calmly watching the TV in the waiting room, which was showing coverage of the accident. I babbled, “I’m so sorry I’m late! There was a huge accident and…” He smiled, pointed up at the TV, and said, “Yeah, kinda figured you’d be late, with that.” I calmed down a bit and did well enough at the interview to get the job, which I held for more than a decade, but it was not an auspicious start. I also lived in that same suburb for much of the time that I worked that particular job, and the drive on my interview day was probably in my top five (out of a couple of thousand) longest on that particular route.

  48. Scott D*

    In my “First Act” I was a software developer. I knew how to build things, and knew quite a few programming languages. I had an interview at a company I *REALLY* wanted to work for. I researched the **** out of the company, posted on message boards for advice on interviewing, etc.

    Interviews at tech companies are all-day affairs. If the interview ends at any point before the end of the day, it generally means you aren’t going to be hired.

    I made sure I was well rested the day before. I knew everyone dressed in jeans and t-shirts so I dressed one level up with a nice shirt but no tie. I found out what public info I could about the people who would be interviewing me (short of stalking!)

    The first part of the interview was just the H.R. stuff–they reviewed my background, gave me a few general personality questions, etc. I felt I aced it. The second part of the interview was talking to the management team. These were very general questions about teamwork, work philosophy, “what is your worst quality?” etc. (I DIDN’T say “I tend to work too hard” and gave an honest answer.

    They seem pleased so then I went to lunch with the team for which I’d be working. This was just general cultural stuff, which I handled well.

    Finally, in the afternoon, it was the technical portion of the interview. This is where they see if you actually “know your stuff.” AND I TOTALLY BLANKED! I forgot the most BASIC of things that I know by heart. I couldn’t define common things that I had REHEARSED prior to the interview to save my life. I left feeling humiliated and mad at myself. I don’t know why this happened. Shortly afterward, I interviewed at another tech company I also wanted to work at and I got the job fairly easily.

    Now, I’ve left software development behind. The money is very good but the hours are crazy long. In my “Second Act” career, the boss insists that NO ONE work more than 40 hours. If you do, she asks why and tries to help me be more efficient. I’m very happy now but CRINGE thinking about this blown interview.

    1. ChangingNameDueToEmbarrassment*

      The blanking on tech stuff I can completely relate to. I interviewed for a role where I would be a technical project manager for a large company. I reached the last stage and I was invited to come to their office for a day for multiple team interviews. I was told by the recruiter that though my job wouldn’t entail doing cost analysis, I would be asked to perform such and would not be allowed the use of a computer. I’m horrible at math. Simply horrible. So the idea of having to do math with just a pencil and paper in a high stress situation had me on edge. I practiced and studied. I even had some accountant and business analyst friends tutor me.

      All of the interviews went really well until it came to the cost analysis portion. I couldn’t remember the formulas I had memorized – they also didn’t provide the formulas. This caused a cascading panic to where I even forgot how to do simple things like calculating percentages. Gone. The day after the recruiter reached out and gave me the bad news that it would have been mine if it weren’t for the cost analysis portion. She said they were shocked by my failure to demonstrate even simple math concepts. That they would have hired me if it wasn’t for screwing up the basic math part. I was so embarrassed by what happened during the interview that I didn’t ask the recruiter for a chance to prove myself again.

    2. Anonymous Coward*

      I blanked, too, on basic math. While interviewing with the first of 5 interviewers for a (non-technical) role at Google.

      He wanted me to whiteboard out a solution to an operations problem that I’d never had to consider before (like, “If a 2-minute call has a 40-minute service as a result, but the worker has to spend 2 hours on a service for a more complicated call that takes 4 minutes, how many calls should you aim to resolve in an hour when you are responsible for dispatching three workers in an 8-hour day?”). And it was SO EMBARRASSING to be staring at my own writing of, like, 100 X 40 and trying to count zeroes so I wouldn’t have to do the long-form multiplication in FRONT of someone, and know that I SHOULD know this, and nonetheless be wanting a calculator because I was so stressed out by the whole thing.

      1. linger*

        Ooh. To solve that one, don’t you also need to know how likely the complicated jobs are?
        You have 24 person-hours available each day; easy jobs take 2/3h, complicated jobs take 2h. Call time is negligible by comparison.
        So the two extreme cases are:
        (i) only easy jobs come in. n=3/2*24=36 jobs/day = 4.5 jobs/hour.
        (ii) only hard jobs come in. n=24/2=12 jobs/day = 1.5 jobs/hour.
        So you can only say it’s something of the order of 3 jobs/hour, though that estimate can be refined after observing the actual distribution of job complexity.

    3. 1234*

      As a new college graduate, I interviewed at a consulting firm to do PT data entry for a contracted period. Even that role involved multiple interviews and I didn’t seem to understand that “We have everything we need and we won’t need to have you interview with Jane” meant that I basically didn’t get the job. My response was “Are you sure? I’d be happy to speak with her!” And the interviewer said nicely how busy Jane is today and wouldn’t have time.

      Current me would’ve said “Thank you so much for your time!” And gotten the hell out of there.

    4. Elenna*

      Ugh, I’m reminded of the time I interviewed for a co-op position at a large government agency in the second half of my third year of university. They asked about variance (a basic stats concept that we learned in second year and then used in literally every stats class ever) and needless to say, every variance-related concept ever immediately flew out of my mind. Later, there were a couple questions on a concept I was literally learning in class right that moment, but by then I was so flustered that I had completely lost any ability to form my thoughts into coherent sentences. Spoiler: I did not get the job.

  49. ee lemmings*

    I had applied internally for four or five open positions. It was not unusual for the hiring manager to only contact those people who made the cut to the interview stage, with no communication to those who didn’t.

    I got a request for an interview one day prior, but the request did not identify which job it was for, only the department.

    I went on the interview, met with two different managers and to this day, have no idea what job it was for.

    1. Quill*

      I ended up having an interview once (via a recruiter and a very vague job description) that was for a job different than the one I thought I had applied for.

      I discovered this halfway through the org chart when I realized that my friend, whose academic and professional background are very different from mine, worked in an adjacent department. The interviewer then asked why I wanted (at 24 and in an industry notorious for having revolving doors of contract employees and temps) to change career tracks.

      Me: “I’m unemployed and would like to not be.”

  50. Dragoning*

    I had an interviewer once ask “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” which is already a dumb question, but I decided to answer with “I would be a cat, because cats get to be jerks to people and everyone loves them anyway” which is true, but, uh.

    Really?

    I also once had a long, multi-day interview (my first post-college interview, only a couple months after I graduated, so I knew basically nothing at this point) with hiring manager, hiring manager’s manager, HR, peer groups, just so many people, and I had already had an HR screen! So when I saw the (same) HR person again, she asked me how the interview was going so far, and I made a terrible, stupid joke about “being interrogated” and she got all worried and motherly trying to be concerned, and I tried to explain it was a joke, and knew I never should’ve said that in an interview.

    Yeah, I got neither of these jobs.

    1. lawyer wrangler*

      A former coworker of mine mentioned how he had once gotten the animal question during an interview- his off the cuff response was “a seeing eye dog because I’m loyal and a leader, etc.” I always thought that was a brilliant answer to such a terrible question!

      1. Dragoning*

        My first reaction was “Oh, a dragon!” (see username) and then I was like “That’s not an animal…”

    2. Joie*

      I got asked once “what superhero would you be?” not what super power I’d choose but what existing superhero I’d be

      1. JZ*

        I’ve asked that question in an interview before. In my case it was a “culture fit” question, since we were a very nerdy software company where many people decorated their cubicles with their favorite comic book characters. Most people thought it was an easy question and I had some fun conversations about why they chose particular characters. I only had one candidate fail to be able to name a single superhero, which I thought was probably a sign that they’d not fit in well at a company where half the engineering team would take PTO the day of the local comics conventions.

        1. Dragoning*

          As an avid con-goer myself, I intensely dislike this assumption that they “Wouldn’t fit in” because they don’t have all the same hobbies. That’s not how culture fit should work in a company. Alison has countless posts about it on this site.

          1. JZ*

            I can’t remember, I might have phrased it as something about heroes? And I definitely would not have have held it against anyone if they pivoted and said something like, “My heroes don’t wear capes, I admire people like [fill in inspirational person here].” But this was the company that I eventually left after they added “fun” as one of the items on our performance reviews. (At that point I was so overworked that work was not fun, and so stressed that I was not fun to work with). So not being at least a little quirky/nerdy would have been a problem for them eventually.

  51. PR Girl*

    I fainted during an interview for an internship in college. That was a good time.

    I also interviewed once with a Fortune company and early in the process was being considered for two very different (but in the same department) roles. However, I missed the email that I was being flown across the country to interview for one of them, and went thinking I was interviewing with both. The hiring manager for the role I wasn’t selected for was still part of the interview process as a peer to the other senior leader because she would have been an internal client as opposed to my boss. Nevertheless, I spent the majority of the interview with her focusing on my experience in her field instead of the other one.

    It didn’t go well, I obviously didn’t get the job and I regretted it for a good two years before I just said, “Eh, it wasn’t meant to be.”

  52. CheeryO*

    I bombed the hell out of a phone interview when I was just out of grad school. The interviewer asked me what specific area of our field I was interested in, and I said, “Uhhh, probably the X side,” even though my recent experience was in Y and the job ad was heavy on Y and didn’t mention X at all. I don’t even know why I said it, but it came out, and my brain broke after that. He asked for more detail about why I was interested in X, and I just said, “Oh, I dunno, I just like the… X,” which wasn’t even a coherent sentence. He was clearly super annoyed by me and stopped the interview there. He said that he’d pass my resume on if any opportunities came up on the X side (lies).

    I’m a nervous interviewer on the best of days, and I had been feeling pretty hopeless about my job search, so I think I was just in a bad headspace. I had a bunch of less-than-stellar interviews around that time, but none quite as cringeworthy as that one.

  53. Wednesday's Child*

    I was interviewing at a conservative company for a position where I’d be training upper administration on a particular product. We were discussing various innovative training techniques that I’d used in the past. They asked for an example and I got up and sang a New Kids on the Block song that I’d reworded for a product, including doing the choreography from the video. The looks on their faces were like I’d started stripping. As I sat down I realized they probably wanted a verbal response, and one appropriate to the environment.

        1. annakarina1*

          Haha that’s great!

          I also thought that the song sounded like it could be reworded for a Pepsi ad, like imagining a freeze-frame shot of a Pepsi logo by Jordan’s head on the line “the right stuff.”

    1. Daisy-dog*

      I saw an interviewing joke on LinkedIn:
      Interviewer: How would you describe yourself.
      Candidate: Verbally, but I have prepared an interpretative dance.

      So…that was actually about you.

  54. Kiki*

    I was too honest in my first job interview for a cashier position at a grocery store. They asked why I wanted the job and I said “I need money.” I mean, I still got the job, but not my greatest interview.

    1. Fikly*

      I mean, really, if you asked the company why they wanted the role filled, is the honest answer anything but “I need the job done?” Why can’t potential employees desire to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads.

  55. JMR*

    Not a job interview, but a medical school interview. I was beyond excited to be invited to interview at one of the top schools in the country. I was a boarderline candidate and it was a reach for me – my MCAT scores and GPA put me well below average for this school, but I had some experience that I thought might make up for it, like having been a co-author on a publication in a top-level journal. The gentleman who interviewed me was decidedly unimpressed with my credentials, and openly huffed that interviewing me was a waste of his time and I must be there to fulfill some sort of quota. I’m female but white, and I guarantee they could have found female candidates with better credentials than mine to fill their quota of that’s what was going on. I brought up my extensive volunteer experience, and the insight I gained from that, and my research experience, which tied into my goal of eventually wanting to run clinical studies someday. He wasn’t having it. He continued to grumble at how unqualified I was, and after about 10 minutes of this torture with 30 minutes left in the interview, and 3 more interviews to go that day, I excused myself and left. I spent my now-free afternoon having lunch in Chinatown and visiting the art museum. I did not get in.

    1. Perpal*

      What a gross interviewer. I want to reach through time and report their behavior to everyone at that school >:(

  56. Gul Ducat*

    I was on my way to an interview for what turned out to be a job so bad, it motivated me to go to grad school and realize my dream career.
    My car *caught on fire* on the highway, on the way to the interview. One thing about vehicle fires, they smell TERRIBLE, so I smelled terrible, and everyone I was in contact with that day reacted to me with a visible grimace. I got lucky though, and after the fire was put out, I got ride from a nice police man to a gas station-in a really bad neighborhood. I finally was able to get change and call from a pay phone to get a taxi to the job interview. I got to the interview three hours late, water logged (of course it was raining), and smelling horrible. I was mortified, but they were so impressed that I actually followed through despite how problematic the day was, that I got the job.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Smelly solidarity!

      That is an amazing story. I’m impressed you did not cancel.

      My smelly story is from when I was in college. I attended a dinner with some of the recruiters the night before the career fair. On my way home, I got t-boned when someone else ran a light in the rain. I then lost control of my car and ended up causing a head-on collision and multi-car pile-up. I was totally fine. However, my airbags deployed, which left marks on my clothes (my interview suit and only dress clothes), and they also leave behind an acrid smell. I wore the suit to the career fair the next day, smelling like airbags. I ended up getting an onsite interview at the company that I had sat next to at the dinner, got the job, and worked there 5 years.

    2. Quill*

      I got lost due to a recruiter giving me the wrong address once, and got interview points for navigating myself to the interview despite that, but this is just, superhero levels of making it to the interview.

  57. AndersonDarling*

    Phone interview for a bank role. They asked about how I would handle confidential information. I gave examples of experience I had with HIPAA info and handling private information and then I blurted out, “But ya know, everyone gossips!”
    I have no idea why I said that! I’m not a gossipy person! I think I was trying to say something funny or friendly or whatever to connect to the interviewer.
    Then I developed a theory that some universal power had me throw the interview because it was not the job for me. When people tell me they had rotten interviews, I tell them that it just wasn’t the right job and the universe has the right one picked out…they just have to keep trying to connect to it.

  58. KP*

    I aced the phone interview, but had reservations about if I wanted the job or not. They requested an in person interview. On the day of the interview I left home 15 minutes late. No reason, just didn’t get out the door – I think I was watching dumb videos on YouTube, saw that it was time to go and then watched a couple more. I got there and didn’t even really apologize for being late, I didn’t acknowledge it at all, just went in as though nothing was wrong. We talked briefly about the position, and was told that the manager was a ‘very difficult person’ and asking if I could handle that. I sat WAY back in the chair, crossed my legs, put my hands behind my head and gave some nonsense answer about how great I am with difficult people.
    At the end of the interview they offered me the job, but I turned it down because I knew if they were desperate enough to want me after that ridiculous display, I didn’t want to work there.

  59. Former Fish Chucker*

    This is a story I heard, not 100% sure if it’s true or aquarium legend, but decades back when I was in college I interviewed for an animal trainer position at Sea World. Rumor had it that there was a past candidate who was having a great interview, and they were prepared to offer her a job. The last question was ‘why do you think you’d be a great candidate for this job’ or something along those lines. Her answer was ‘I was a dolphin in a former life, so I know how to best work with and communicate with them’. She did not get the job.

    1. Hedgehug*

      See, now I am expecting her to write about that interview on this forum and say “I don’t know why I said I was a former dolphin, I was just trying to connect with the interviewer” lol

  60. Manon*

    A few years ago I had an internship interview at a leading nonprofit in my desired issue area for a fantastic position. I was so excited that I completely psyched myself out. Day of, I was so so SO nervous. When some questions took me by surprise and I didn’t have a pre-prepared answer, I had a full-on panic attack (got red in the face, sputtering, couldn’t breathe come up with a coherent sentence). Needless to say I didn’t get the job.

    The worst part is now that I’m graduating there are positions there that I’m qualified for and would love to apply for, but the thought of interviewing with that same department head is unbearable.

    1. Cats4Gold*

      That’s awful that happened! But if you can, I’d encourage you to apply there anyways. It’s an opportunity to show how you’ve learned and grown, and to maybe make your peace with a bad experience. If it were me, I wouldn’t be thinking the worst about you, I’d be thinking “Oh no, I hope that this person is okay!” We’re all human, as these stories show, and panic attacks and coughing fits and bad days happen. I’d hate to see anybody lose out on a great opportunity because they feel embarrassed. Regardless of what you decide, good luck with the job search, I hope you find something that you love!

  61. Brownie*

    First professional interview of my life fresh out of college. I’d shared the job posting with one of my friends in my major who also got an interview. I showed up for mine as she was getting out of hers and she greeted me with a “Hi (nickname)!” in front of the head interviewer/potential boss. Who then proceeded to greet me with that nickname and ask which I preferred as that wasn’t the name on my resume. Now normally I only use nickname in social situations with friends and full name for anything professional, but could I say that? Nope, my brain arbitrarily decided to fall down on the job and come up with some kind of BS about nickname being gender-neutral so it wasn’t something I wanted to use in the workplace. It was like one of those scenes showing the oblivious person walking into danger while someone else is lunging at them shouting “Nooooooooo!” inside my head and threw me off completely for the rest of the interview. I didn’t get that job.

    1. JZ*

      Once when I was leaving an interview the next candidate was walking in, and it was a former coworker. I was a little worried about what he’d say if the interviewer casually asked, “So how do you two know each other?” only because of how I’d left the place we’d worked together. (We’d had been through a rough five month search to add another member to our department, and as soon as we hired someone, I gave my two week notice.) So I turned to the woman from HR who was walking me out and said, “You should totally hire Bob, he’s great!” Because I figured if I said nice things about him, there was no way he could repay that kindness by trash talking me (I also wasn’t entirely sure that job was a good fit for me, but I thought it might be a great fit for Bob, so why not score some good karma points?).

  62. Graphic Design Bear*

    My personal favorite:

    I was looking for a job before I got my degree. It wasn’t in my major but I did have lots of experience in it.

    I had to drive two towns over in the middle of summer with no AC. I was wearing a suit that made me look like a cut-rate mob boss ( I didn’t know for both of my different industries that suits weren’t required.)

    At the skills test I got so nervous I forgot everything I’d ever known about Excel, and then I slipped my pen (for note taking) in my pocket… but my suits front pockets were sewn shut and I couldn’t get it when I needed it again. I had to borrow a pen from the interviewer.

    By the end of the interview I was red faced, sweaty, and extremely embarrassed. While I did get a “thank you have a nice day” on the way out, that was all I got, lol!

    After that interview I decided to wait until I graduated so I could find a job in my field.

  63. HKB*

    At a transition point in my early professional life, I found myself needing to move back to my hometown. It was in the early 2000s before a lot of jobs were online and so I was looking in the local newspapers. I answered an ad for “marketing,” which I thought I could do with my humanities degree and some teaching experience.
    When I showed up to a dingy building in a sketchy part of a neighboring town, I was told to wait with other applicants while the team finished up their morning meeting. From the sounds coming out of the conference room, it was a sort of pep rally. When that cacophony finished, each applicant was assigned a rep to spend the day with. Thankfully mine was a woman who took me around to various offices trying to get people to sign up to use Stamps.com. Someone else was sent off to bus stops in a poorer section of town to sign people up for credit cards. My rep talked about joining her “team” and the other kinds of promotions she worked on. At the end of this bewildering day, I was called into the head guy’s office and he seemed to think I’d do well in his company. All I can remember is that he wore dark sunglasses, used a lot of hair gel, and had clear nail polish on his fingernails. It all felt very fishy and once I realized these “teams” were essentially a pyramid scheme, I thanked them and said it was not for me. Definitely one of the most bizarre days in my professional career.

    1. Socrates Johnson*

      I’ve had friends who went for an interview for ‘marketing’ and it was for selling coupon books door to door. The stories are actually hilarious because they showed up in interview wear and were paired with someone else who was in jeans and then got in their car and off they went. One of them stopped at their escort’s mom’s house to get lunch and it had been pouring, so my friend was drenched and his escort gave him a sweatshirt. When my friend tried to leave early and said the job wasn’t for him, the guy basically said “oh, you don’t think you can do this because it’s too hard for you!”

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yes – the “marketing rep” trick is so common! I can’t believe your friend went to their escort’s mom’s house! Did they keep the sweatshirt?

      2. Anonymous Coward*

        Ha. I did this on my first day with Cutco. The guy driving me around was maybe 20. He went home to have lunch, and I didn’t have lunch (or a car), so I… went with him? And his mom fed me. She was very nice. Didn’t speak English, maybe wasn’t sure why her son was bringing home a girl in the middle of the day, but…

  64. Smithy*

    I’ve certainly done more than one ‘fail’ moment in an interview – that even include slipping from “embellishing” experience to lying and needing to withdraw from the process out of terror of being found out.

    But my greatest moments of interviewing shame were during a year where I was interviewing a lot, very unhappy at my job, and not getting offers. I do nonprofit fundraising, and sure – technically speaking, I have skills most nonprofits can make use of. And as a person with a diverse range of interests (this isn’t a field I got into because I only want to support museums featuring teapots made between 1850-1860), I certainly can connect to the missions of many organizations.

    However, the mix of real desperation to leave and the time it was taking….I was applying to lots of jobs and only quite realizing during the interviews exactly how much I did or did not connect to the mission. Some moments were mild cases of simply not being educated enough about the organization to sell my ability to sell the organization to donors. However, in one case after multiple rounds of interviews where I kept on being asked “given your history – are you sure you connect with teapot disposal advocacy”, I was there with the Executive Director and was just like “you know – you’re right. I’m not a good fit, I can’t do this.” As awkward and adversarial as it was, it truly was the best thing for all parties involved.

  65. Re'lar Fela*

    About a year ago, I interviewed for a position as an executive assistant to a popular YA author/YouTuber/creator of awesome things. It was a video interview with someone (not the author) I’ve admired for years and years as well as the Operations Manager of the author’s company. I was exceedingly prepared and the whole thing was going well…right up until the very end when I was asked to talk about my interests. They specifically asked if I enjoyed any YouTube channels or Podcasts or if I liked to read (the author and his company have multiple YT channels and podcasts and he obviously writes books. I love all of those things and could have spent HOURS talking about them). Instead, I blanked entirely and babbled uselessly about how I like playing with my toddler and doing puzzles. I still cringe thinking about it. Needless to say, I was not asked back for a second interview.

    (It all worked out, though; in September, I was offered an interview out of the blue with an organization I’ve long admired. I nailed that interview and it’s the best job I’ve ever had).

    1. CollegeSupervisor*

      Totally picturing John Green and Complexly here. I have a feeling John would empathize with that moment, so if it was really them there might have been any number of reasons you didn’t advance to a second interview.

      1. Re'lar Fela*

        The author in question was not available for the interview, as his young child needed to go to the doctor that morning. But yes, I imagine that John Green would have been very empathetic and likely amused. However, one of the things that was emphasized in the position description and throughout the interview was the importance of familiarity with the various projects of the company. But you’re completely right that there are a thousand possible reasons.

  66. akiwiinlondon*

    I think my worst interview I always remember was more a case of not clicking with the interviewer, I don’t recall doing anything outrageous but it was terrible.

    This was back when I was unemployed post redundancy from 2008 and I was trying to get a role back in my industry and get my career back on track after loosing my first ever job.
    I had a great first interview with someone higher up first (don’t recall why they were a first round) and was then asked to meet the actual manager of the role.
    I don’t remember the specifics now but I remember an incredibly uncomfortable interview, we didn’t connect, I didn’t answer his questions well. I bombed.

    The worst part that always struck me was the recruitment agency I was working with at the time also giving me a telling off for blowing the interview – I’d done so well with the higher up they couldn’t understand why it went so badly with the manager.

    Years later of work experience I know I likely dodged a bit of a bullet there – when it goes badly because you don’t have a good rapport with the person who will be your manager then it’s just not a good fit – but man that recruiter made me feel like the worst person ever and being young and desperate to get my career back on track it was a real blow.

  67. I usually lurk*

    This wasn’t a bomb, exactly, but I was once interviewing for a job 90 minutes from my current city of residence. It began raining HEAVILY on the way there; like, the kind of rain where you can hardly see the car in front of you. I barely made it on time to the reception desk, soaking wet (I think I had an umbrella, but it was blowing in sideways). The receptionist then walked me over to another building–it was still pouring sheets of rain–where the interview was to take place and we came to a massive puddle that could not be circumnavigated because of traffic. SHE OFFERED TO PICK ME UP AND CARRY ME OVER IT. (I’m a small person, but so was she … like, I’m pretty sure it would not have actually worked.) I declined and walked through the puddle in my high heels. When I got to the interview, they asked if I needed a moment and I wiped myself down with paper towels as best I could in the bathroom. I didn’t get the job, but I don’t think it’s because I was extremely wet. But I guess I’ll never know. I ended up getting a job I preferred over that one that lasted five wonderful years, and I still laugh to myself thinking of the nice lady who wanted to pick me up.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        It says a lot of positive things about the culture of the organization. Team work, to the max!

        1. I usually lurk*

          True! She was super nice. Like I think she genuinely wanted to help me and didn’t see any other options. I felt bad that she had to get soaked just to walk me over to another building … I drove home after the interview, but I doubt she had a spare set of clothes at work!

  68. Phony Genius*

    This was more of a delayed post-interview embarrassment. I was interviewing with a company, where I did not get the job. During the interview, I picked up the vibe that the company operated in a cult-like manner. I probably would have hated working there. I eventually got a job at an agency in the same field. One day, I am telling my interview story about this job to somebody, when I hear a voice behind me. It was the interviewer from that company – she had come to our office for a meeting on a contract they had with us. She was walking by my desk on the way to the conference room, and heard her company’s name. Yes, she heard enough to know I essentially called them a cult. The only thing that helped me out of that moment was that she had to get to that meeting, so she had no time to really respond to my statement.

    By the way, that company was eventually acquired, so their working environment eventually evolved to that of the acquiring company. But I’m not sure if they had to let some people go to break the cult.

  69. Elisabeth*

    The worst experience I ever had was a day when I was really too sick to get out of bed, but I badly wanted the job so I took a bunch of cold medicine and went to the office anyhow.

    ProTip: Don’t do that. The cold medicine worked well enough that I was loopy and not really giving the best answers, but not so well that I didn’t cough, sneeze, and otherwise work my way through an entire pocket pack of kleenex during the interview. It was completely unprofessional — and in hindsight, I’m also mortified that I exposed several members of management to whatever death virus was bringing me down.

    Needless to say, I did not get the job.

    Second worst was when I was interviewing with Company A, which had a similar name to more prestigious Company B. Somehow, I had gotten it into my head that A and B were in the same general neighborhood. (They weren’t.) So when we were making small talk during the interview, I asked when Company A had moved from that area.

    I could tell from the interviewer’s expression that this was a terrible, terrible mistake. I tried to explain what had happened, but there was no convincing her that I didn’t have A and B mixed up.

    And that is another job I did not get.

  70. ZSD*

    There was the time I prepared for the interview but somehow failed to prepare a response to, “So why are you interested in this position?” I stammered my way through an answer to what should be, you know, the one question you answer easily.

    Or the time I had a phone interview, and the interviewer called an hour early.

    1. Colette*

      I always forget to think about that question. You would think I’d learn by now. You would be wrong.