the salted coffee, the phantom pigeon, and other interview mortifications

Last week I asked you to share stories of bombed interviews and other job search mortifications. Here are some of the stand-outs.

1. “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.”

2. “I once went to an interview where they asked for an example of a time I’d resolved conflict – and I responded with a terrible laugh and said, ‘Well, I’ve caused some trouble.'”

3. “In my early 20’s I interviewed for an admin assistant position at a small tech company. I aced the first interview, got along great with everyone, was polished and professional but still friendly. I got called back for a second interview with the execs of the company and for some weird reason I treated it like a day hanging out with friends. I wore jeans tucked into slouch boots, which I remember clearly because I PROPPED MY FEET UP ON THE CONFERENCE TABLE, crossing my ankles. I think I was even chewing — and popping — bubblegum.

In a surprise to absolutely no one but me, I didn’t get the job.”

4. “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 its 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.”

5. “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.”

6. “Back in law school I was interviewing for a summer position at a state Department of Justice. My interviewer and I weren’t really gelling and I think we could both feel it…nothing horrible was happening, but the energy was down, and we didn’t really have much of a connection.

At the bottom of my resume, I’d added that I’d published a book, so as a way to build camaraderie my interviewer told me that she was an author as well. I was excited that we had something in common, so I asked what genre. She paused, laughed awkwardly, then gestured to what I realized were pictures of book covers with shirtless male torsos on the bulletin board behind her. She said, ‘Well, I write romance…erotica…’ There was a long pause as she tried to struggle her way out of the explanation, but since I just kept smiling and nodding what she ended up blurting was, ‘I write gay sex.’

Since I could tell she was instantly mortified with herself, and I wanted her to know it was OK since I enjoy a good erotica myself, and I didn’t want it to seem like I was judging the M/M aspect of it, I earnestly replied, ‘That’s my favorite kind!’

And when she kind of laughed in amazement and covered her face with her hands, I DOUBLED DOWN: ‘No, seriously! It is!'”

7. “Way back in the day, I was unemployed for awhile, and was asked how I spent my days. For some reason, I launched into a detailed analysis of the formula of the Maury Povich Show. Inappropriate things were said. I just couldn’t shut up even though my brain was telling me to stop.

Somehow, I was offered the job. I still don’t know how or why. I didn’t end up taking it, I received another offer and was too embarrassed to work there.”

8. “I interviewed for an internship in college. I really didn’t want the internship, but I needed it to satisfy some university requirements. The interview went okay, it didn’t feel particularly short or long – about a half hour by my estimation. The interviewer then asked me if I wanted to look around the place for a bit, and I said, ‘No, actually I have to go.’ Looked at my watch and only five minutes had gone by. Her face was filled with disgust. I did not get a call back.”

9. “I was asked who would play me if my someone made a biopic about me. I sat there stupefied for a few moments before saying Johnny Depp. Well – I am a woman and happen to have nothing in common with Johnny Depp as a person or any of the characters that he has played. I simply could not think of any other celebrity names at all in the moment. Thankfully this happened at the very end of the interview (or the interviewers decided that my awkwardness would be a great time to end the interview). I somehow managed to get that job despite it all!”

10. “Had my first out of state, need to fly to another state, academic job interview. One of those dinner the night before, all day affairs with lunch and a presentation I had to do, straight to the airport at the end of the day.

Well my doctor ended up upping the dosage of one of my medications, that I take at night. Made. Me. ILL. The plane left at 6am-ish, so taxi ride to the airport around 4am. Almost threw up in the cab cause it was so hot and stuffy. Got the airport, went to the bathroom, threw up. Checked in, went through security, went to the bathroom, threw up. Got some gatorade, tried to drink it, threw up. Got on the plane. Was supposed to be polishing up my presentation and writing all the notecards. Spent the entire time, breathing through my nose trying to control the nausea.

…Went out to dinner with the hiring manager, felt way better, was able to eat some, but I was pretty out of it, and it was obvious I wasn’t asking questions they expected. I guess they expected more questions about the next day, but I’d done these types before so I pretty much knew what to expect and just couldn’t fake it.

Worst part: we ordered coffee at the end, which I still needed to go back to the hotel and work on my presentation, so I wanted the caffeine. Well there was this little jar and a spoon sitting on the table, waiter brought cream, so I added cream and sugar from the little jar. IT WASN’T SUGAR, it was totally salt. Then to make matters worse, I actually said to the manager, ‘Oh I just salted my coffee.’ He, clearly surprised, offered to get the waiter to get a new cup. Nope, my poor shredded brain for some reason declined, then I proceeded to drink the salted coffee, declaring that it wasn’t that bad.

Shockingly I did not get the job, and I have to be the hilarious job interviewee who salted their coffee, stated so, and then drank it.”

{ 397 comments… read them below }

  1. Canadian Public Servant*

    On 10: Anyone who knows me would tell you that, if I drank coffee, I would absolutely salt it.

    Also, I needed this today, so thank you to Alison and to everyone who shared!

    1. TiffanyAching*

      I actually do add a little bit of salt to my coffee! It cuts down the bitterness. People do find it very strange, though.

      1. StellaBella*

        Was coming here to say this – that 4-5 grains in a cup make coffee less bitter – my WWII Army dad taught me that – the coffee in the Army was terrible apparently, back then. :) It’s basic chemistry!

      2. Mama Bear*

        Good to know.

        Years ago, when my uncle was dropping me off at college, I offered him coffee and kind of waved in the direction of our sugar supply. Sadly for him, the sugar and salt were next to each other in unmarked tins…that amount of salt did not make a better cup of coffee, judging from his reaction!

    2. Leela*

      I’d find it strange at the outset but coffee + salt plus maybe milk and caramel? That sounds amazing….

          1. Ego Chamber*

            They have it again this year, kind of. It’s salted caramel mocha now but they’ll do caramel sauce instead of the chocolate syrup in the coffee if you ask, and it comes with the same caramel swirl and sea salt as last year.

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          Right now they have a smoked butterscotch latte, which they sprinkle with smoked salt. It is delicious.

          1. many bells down*

            My only problem with that one is that all the delicious butterscotch flavor seems to collect at the bottom and I don’t get any until the end of my latte

            1. Leela*

              I managed to snag one during lunch and this was my experience exactly. It was delicious though! If I get it again I’ll just have to give it a really vigorous stirring

            2. Diahann Carroll*

              Happens to me all the time as well. I even stir it with a straw before drinking, and it still doesn’t help.

    3. AMT*

      I use salted butter in my coffee. Use strong coffee and mix it with a hand blender and it’ll be the best coffee you’ve ever had.

    4. FreddyLongJohns*

      I’m gonna guess that OP added their usual amount of sugar to the coffee, which could be a spoonful of salt!

    5. Nita*

      I worked with a girl who put pepper in her coffee. Claimed it was good and I should really try it. A laughed and declined. A couple years later, I happened across a small cafe that served coffee with chili peppers – what do you know, it actually tastes pretty good! I guess that girl was just ahead of her time.

        1. Julia*

          My husband peppers his coke. Not sure what this is supposed to add to the conversation, but I just wanted to let the world know.

          1. Foon*

            I’m imagining someone grinding pepper into a pile of cocaine, but I assume you’re referring to the soft drink.

    6. Alex*

      Well actually in Ethiopia, which is basically where coffee was invented, they sometimes salt their coffee, so that’s definetely a connaisseur thing.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    My kindergarten teacher, during an interview with the woman who ended up being my first grade teacher the next year, accidentally salted the coffee. He was mortified but she laughed it off, thank goodness.

    Wow, it’s been 35+ years and I still remember that!

    1. Lena Clare*

      A friend of mine accidentally mistook cheese sauce for custard on a mince pie. She said it was actually not terrible. Dried fruit and cheese go well together but mince pie and cheese sauce?!

      1. MeTwoToo*

        At a business lunch once several of us added dressing to our salad from the bowl of what we thought was a vinaigrette only to find it was gravy for the mashed potatoes next on the line. I ate it anyway.

        1. irene adler*

          A coworker told me about the time, at a work luncheon, he ended up with an inedible lunch.

          The menu served was a build-it-yourself burrito bar. Only there were a couple of different tables set up with food. He moved to another table to apply a healthy dose of the refried beans onto his tortilla. Then returned to the first table to add the cheese, salsa, sour cream, etc.

          He sat down and the meeting began. The speaker was introduced and everyone settled in. He took a big bite of the burrito only to discover that the refried beans was actually chocolate mousse.


          1. Free now (and forever)*

            I once opened the refrigerator when I was a teen to find a bowl of chocolate whipped cream. I must admit that I swirled my finger around in that bowl to get a bit taste of it. Chopped chicken liver mousse.

        2. Salsa Your Face*

          Meanwhile a bunch of us once added what we thought was gravy to a baked chicken dish only to find that it was actually balsamic vinaigrette!

      2. jam*

        I was buying a roast turkey sandwich in a cafeteria setting once around Thanksgiving time, and there was a bowl of red gloop on the counter, which I thought was cranberry sauce. So I went ahead and put a generous scoop onto my sandwich; I got some odd looks from the food service workers which made me think I’d taken too much, or maybe it was extra like guacamole, but whatever, cranberry and turkey is great. When I sat down and took a big bite — nope, it was strawberry jam.

        Incidentally, once you get past the cognitive dissonance, strawberry jam on a hot meat sandwich isn’t bad.

        1. many bells down*

          I was traumatized as a child by a huge bite of what I THOUGHT was canned cranberry sauce but was in fact circles of sliced cooked beets. I cannot stand beets to this day.

          1. Barefoot Librarian*

            I had the opposite experience! As a kid raised in the UK I was very familiar with pickled beets. I had never even heard of cranberry sauce. It’s a weird and unpleasant moment when you take a bit of something sweet expecting it to be tangy (and vice versa, I’m sure).

            1. Artemesia*

              My daughter loathes beets and we were once at a Seattle hip tasting menu place where the palate cleanser was a raspberry sorbet — or so we thought — it was a beet sorbet. The look on her face LOL.

                1. Chickadee*

                  That is too funny – I just read something about adding beets to certain dishes because of their sweetness. What?! To me, beets always taste like dirt. Do they taste sweet to some people?? How can taste buds be THAT different?!

      3. whingedrinking*

        One year my mother asked me to make mince tarts at Christmas; she said the mincemeat was in the fridge. I looked and didn’t find it. She said to look again, and I still didn’t find it.
        “Oh, for heaven’s sake, it’s right in front of you!”
        “Here!” And she handed me a jar full of a thick, dark brown substance.
        It’s a good thing I was the one making dessert and not her, or we’d have had Branston Pickle tarts.

      4. Wired Wolf*

        That sounds similar to apple pie with cheddar cheese which is a thing around here. I’ve had sticky toffee pudding with a few slices of good cheddar once because I was curious and there wasn’t enough cheese left to actually make anything with it…that wasn’t half bad (but YMMV, I was and am a very strange child).

        1. Lena Clare*

          Oh cheddar with fruit cake (or in the crust for apple pie) is a thing here, but I think that mince pie is far enough removed from fruit cake, and cheese sauce from hard cheese that it seems…weird?

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Also, my uncle, who is a college professor, got long-winded at a student luncheon one time and, while he was distracted by the sound of his own voice, the kids switched his ice cream for butter, which was served in scoops in small bowls, just like the ice cream. I’m told it stopped him in his tracks.

      1. fposte*

        I could see that backfiring: “As long as the ice cream isn’t starting to melt, I can’t have talked too long!”

      2. Indigo a la mode*

        On the ice cream note: My Japanese friend swears that if you put a little bit of soy sauce on vanilla ice cream, it tastes like caramel.

        I have not attempted this to date.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Japanese Hagen Das does a flavor that’s sesame ice cream with a ribbon of caramelized soy sauce. I didn’t know what it was when I chose it since I was in a rush at the conbini and I don’t speak or read Japanese, but I do have a strange affinity for novelty food. It was quite good.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        COMPLETELY off topic, but once in high school, a small food fight broke out in the cafeteria. Butter pats were launched, and we didn’t know where they all landed.

        There was a stage in the cafeteria, a raised platform in a recessed area in the wall with regular room lights in the ceiling, that you accessed via steps on either side. It was often used for random small shows, ceremonies, meetings, and the like. That night, we had a choir performance, and it took place there on that stage.

        Well, of course the lights were on during this performance. Halfway through, something started dripping from the ceiling into the ranks. Yep, one of the butter pats had landed on the light fixture and now was melting. The entire choir, most of whom were there in the cafeteria for the launching, nearly burst with the effort to stay sober in front of our parents and teachers and keep singing. You should have seen the choir director’s face.

        I can only imagine what might have happened if they’d had a school board meeting in there and it dripped on somebody important.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Once at a party I had a little plate of those cinnamon pastry bites with caramel sauce you get from pizza places.
      One of them wasn’t pastry. It was a garlic french fry.

      Those do not taste good with caramel sauce. I wretched pretty hard.

      1. Sally*

        One year at Thanksgiving, my mom served hard sauce. Looked like frosting to me – woo hoo! It does NOT taste like frosting!

      2. ampersand*

        Oh man, there’s just something extra terrible about expecting that you’ve put food A in your mouth only to find out it’s food B. It’s really jarring, like the gustatory equivalent of stepping off a curb you didn’t realize was there.

    4. Kelly L.*

      I once went to a diner-type place where the coffee carafe looked a bit like the syrup pitcher, and poured coffee on my pancakes.

      It was delicious.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Better you than me! I would have apologized to the waitstaff and ordered some more pancakes.

        I. Can’t. Stand. Coffee.

        Everyone else, feel free to go ahead and drink it for me!

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        Heh, once I was at a fancy brunch buffet, and the handsome gentleman carving the roast beef and making the Belgian waffles served me a fresh waffle right off the iron. We were chatting a bit, and he was cute, so I was distracted as I drizzled a bit of syrup and added strawberries and whipped cream while he put more batter in the iron.

        English was not his first language, so it took me a few minutes to realize that he wasn’t saying, “and you?”

        He was saying, “Jus!” in reference to the roast beef jus I had just drizzled on my hot, fresh waffle and topped with fruit and cream.

        Fortunately, he was faster on the uptake than I was, so the new waffle he was already making was for me.

      3. Mike*

        It sounds like it might be! What would happen if we made pancakes deliberately that way? Like mix coffee into the batter? That might taste really good!

    5. MOAS*

      Oh gosh, so once my family had ordered Indian food takeout. We ordered chicken biryani and a dessert which was rice pudding. Salad and yogurt is very common accompaniment to chicken biryani.

      When I got my rice, I poured yogurt over it.

      It was not yogurt. It was the rice pudding (which was actually so liquidy so it was pretty gross).

      Fun times

    6. SkyePilot*

      My high school had a fancy salad bar and one day I saw what I thought were chunks of feta (which I love!) tossed a ton of those on my salad. Squishy texture should have been a clue. Undrained, unseasoned, plain ol’ tofu. BLECH.

    7. Rebecca in Dallas*

      My mom went to Italy with her church youth group back in high school. Being from Texas, the group commented a few times how much they missed iced tea (very much not a thing in Europe). They were having a group dinner at a restaurant and the owners very nicely made them iced tea and brought out a glass for each person. They were all so excited and appreciative that the staff had gone out of their way to make them the tea. One of her friends scooped what he thought was sugar into his glass and gave it a stir… but it was grated parmesan. He was so sad that he’d ruined his iced tea! Everyone else felt bad for him, but not bad enough to share their tea.

    8. Is Butter a Carb?*

      I ate a dried flower petal thinking it was one of those colored potato or vegetable chips because it sat in a big bowl right in the middle of the food table.

      Also in Kindergarten I stole what looked like candy but was someone’s eraser. I deserved that.

    9. GovSysadmin*

      A few years ago, I was at a friend’s house for a board game night, and he made pasta for everyone. Unfortunately, when he went to add basil to the pasta sauce, he was a bit distracted by his kids, and grabbed the wrong box – which contained mint.

      We tried to eat it, we really did. But after a few bites of what got dubbed “Refreshing Pasta”, we ended up ordering a pizza rather than continuing to eat pasta that tasted like toothpaste.

      1. Wren*

        My old housemate made lemon spaghetti for a games night once. She is a chef and it was intentional, but I just hated it. Too sweet.

    10. Eirene*

      I once poured balsamic vinegar into my coffee instead of the hazelnut syrup I was intending. I didn’t feel like brewing another pot (I was at home) so I just shrugged and drank it. Pretty good, actually!

    11. K*

      I went on a date with this guy in college. We went to the cheap diner that all the students would go to. He got an omelette and accidentally poured SUGAR on it. He was obviously mortified but I thought it was hilarious. It otherwise went pretty well since we ended up dating for a couple months.

    12. Ev*

      I went to a funeral luncheon in Georgia once, and there were wee finger sandwiches made with pineapple and what I thought was cream cheese.

      It was not cream cheese.

      It was mayonnaise.

      1. MangoAngel*

        Unfortunately, mayo-and-pineapple sandwiches are definitely a thing here in the South.

        My mother also likes mayo-and-banana sandwiches. Blurgh…

  3. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

    #6 is amazing because it was equally awkward and embarrassing for both interviewer and interviewee. Also I’m curious if OP got the job!

    1. Dragoning*

      The most astounding part of that to me was that she either had the books or copies of the raunchy covers…in her office? Why. Why would she do that.

      “That’s my favorite kind” oh my goooooooood

      1. Frank Doyle*

        Right? Or like, put them up, but only if you’re not embarrassed about them, and have an already-prepared explanation. Surely that’s not the first time someone asked about them!

      2. ContentWrangler*

        That was my same thought! It’s apparently a government job so it seems iffy to hang them up at all. But also, if you’ve made the choice to hang them up, how can you be so embarrassed talking about them? Also, in answer to what genre you write, “Romance novels” is enough detail.

        1. Cinnamon*

          I have to wonder if she likes people talking about them (and her) and only appears to be embarrassed.

    2. GrumbleBunny*

      For some reason this one sent me into spasms of laughter and I had to excuse myself to the ladies’ room to pull it together.

  4. Oh No She Di'int*

    #6 reminds me that it’s a 2-way street. There are probably quite a few stories out there from interviewers about embarrassing moments or mortifying behavior when interviewing candidates.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      I once accidentally wore two different colored shoes to work one day and interviewed someone. Was hoping he wouldn’t notice my feet. He did.

        1. Auntie Social*

          “I wondered if you were going to be brave enough to say something to me, and how you’d bring it up.” “Yes, it’s now part of my interviews. . . .”

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        My former colleague (an SVP of a 9000-employee organization) once had to interview someone wearing a dress shirt and tie, jacket and…bike shorts, because he only brought 2/3 of his clothes to work when he biked to work that day!

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          LOL I have a fear that I will forget to pack something necessary in my gym bag! I bet after that, he kept a spare outfit in his office.

      2. Forrest*

        I once ran a training course and there was a woman right in front of me on the front row with odd shoes on. Once I’d noticed I couldn’t *stop* noticing. Then I noticed her noticing. Then she noticed me noticing her noticing. Horrendous.

        1. 404UsernameNotFound*

          Now I can’t stop thinking about that one Overly Sarcastic Productions video. “And he notices him noticing! And he notices him noticing him noticing! And this goes on forever BECAUSE HE’S IN HELL!”
          OSP is the best.

  5. Havarti*

    #6: Now that’s a bold woman, putting her male torso covers on her bulletin board. I kinda want to know her name lol!

    #10: Honestly, we’ve stuck salt in everything else by now. Maybe salted coffee will become a trend. True story: I was at a post-funeral luncheon thingy for a much beloved employee. They had a big bowl of white stuff near the bowls of chips so I took a dollop thinking it was sour cream dip. No, it was mayo. A giant bowl of mayo. I shoved a whole chip covered in mayo into my mouth in front of a bunch of grieving strangers. I don’t really care for mayo.

    1. Jean*

      Oh God, the accidental mayo chip… I’m fine with mayo on a sandwich, but that would have me struggling not to gag. And the setting just makes it soooo much worse.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      One thing I learned from the recent dust-up in the Romance Writers of America is that there are a lot of lawyers writing romance books.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Google “courtney milan rwa” – Milan is a very respected lawyer, a romance writer, and a person of Chinese descent. She tweeted about how the description of a Chinese character in a recently republished book was full of racist stereotypes.

          The author complained. The RWA handled it badly, for what looked like political reasons. Everything exploded.

    3. He Said, She Said*

      Oh my Gd how did you avoid reflexively spitting it out onto the nearby mourners? I think I might have vomited on the spot.

    4. Zephy*

      A pinch of salt will cut the bitterness of bad coffee or coffee that’s been sitting on the hot plate too long and gotten very bitter. You wouldn’t use nearly as much salt as you would sugar, though, so I’m sure #10’s coffee was awful.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I tried it in my press not long ago because I heard you wouldn’t have to use as much sugar, and yep, I used too much salt. >_<

    5. Automated*

      I salt my coffee lightly. Just a pinch in the grounds of the french press makes a huge difference in smoothness.

    6. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Hey, Havarti, that happened to me too — except the white stuff in the giant bowl was marshmallow.

      1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

        I took a reasonable serving of potato salad at a tailgate once only to discover that it was expensive blue cheese dip. Which honestly, I blame them, because who brings that to a tailgate?

      2. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I would not mind a big dollop of marshmallow! I would very much mind even the tiniest dollop of mayo, though.

      3. Havarti*

        This could have been tolerable to me since I like salty/sweet but there are certain things that should not be presented in large unlabeled bowls.

    7. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I once got a big bowl of sour cream at a buffet thinking it was white chocolate mousse. Took a big spoonful and immediately spit it out. Sour cream is one of the few foods I can’t stand; it tastes like spoiled milk to me.

    8. Shira*

      At a conference I was walking around the breakfast buffet with a colleague. I poured a cup of what I thought was fruit shake from a carafe on one of the buffet tables. Mid-conversation I paused to take a sip. It was raw egg for the omlet bar.

      Thankfully my colleague was chill and I could react honestly in the moment, because ew ew ew ew. Also, why would you leave raw egg unattended on the buffet table IN A DRINK CARAFE????

    9. londonedit*

      I was thinking ‘What’s the problem? Mayo is amazing with chips’ and then I realised you probably meant chips as in crisps, which definitely go less well with mayo.

      1. Havarti*

        I wish I knew! They had sandwich platters. Even if everyone put some on their sandwich, that was still too much mayo.

  6. jm*

    these stories make me feel so much better about the time i impulsively rolled my eyes just after describing how i interact with clients. i never got a call back and i always assumed this was why.

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I was on a Skype interview for what sounded like a pretty terrible job. It was advertised as being in Boston, and I didn’t learn until the interview that it was 50 miles outside of Boston. Allegedly a senior position, lots of travel, and a salary that was not at all competitive for the industry, the role or the area.

      I’m afraid I made a face when the recruiter told me the salary. Enough so that she actually said, “Oh my God, did you just make a face??!”

      I got the rejection email about 2 minutes after we got off the phone. I would have taken myself out of the running anyhow (it was 40k less than I was making at the time), but I guess my lack of a poker face did it for me.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, 40k less than your current salary, making a face sounds like a totally reasonable reaction!

        1. many bells down*

          I spent most of my teen years in community theater. I also taught drama for several years. And yet, I have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over my facial expressions offstage. I would 100% have done this too.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            LOL, I thought I was the only former actor who couldn’t control her facial expressions – it’s a curse.

      2. Hi Mom!*

        Sometimes I think our subconscious knows better than us and that’s why these reactions come out with no warning or ability to stop them.

        In other words, it was the smart quiet part of you brain saying “Nope… don’t even want to waste time on this one no matter what the rest of us thinks… nuking option in 3..2..1..”

      3. Leela*

        This is an amazing example of why companies should be straightforward as early as the job posting about the salary

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          No kidding, right? It was maddening for me because of the time wasted and because I’d been notified that I was being laid off in 60 days, so I was invested in the process. It also wasted to the recruiters time, and she genuinely seemed as though she liked what I’d had to say prior to that point.

          1. whingedrinking*

            If you were thinking quickly and you cared enough, you could say something like, “Sorry, I was stifling a hiccup.” But it definitely sounds like this was a situation where you wanted to put a torch to that bridge as soon as possible.

      4. StellaBella*

        This is awesome. I am crying! “Like, O-M-G! Did you just make a face!?!?” has me howling and the cat is looking at me oddly.

      5. Beatrice*

        The optimist in me really hopes that, after your interview, the recruiter went back to the company and said, “look, guys, we need to take another look at either the pay or the responsibilities for this role…I told you the pay was too low, and I just got out of an interview with a candidate who literally made a face at the salary range.”

        That would be a full-circle conversation where I work, unless we truly thought we were competitive and you were just out of our range.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          One can hope!

          I had a similar but less embarrassing situation during that same job search, where a different company was looking to fill the same type/level role and their salary, while not as ridiculous, was not realistic for the skills and certifications they were looking for. I had a very sincere conversation about it with the recruiter and she reached out to me a while later to tell me about her subsequent conversation with the hiring manager and compensation team. I don’t know that they ever adjusted the salary range for that one, but their willingness to examine the possibility was appreciated.

      6. Sparrow*

        This is totally something I could imagine myself doing. One can only hope your face was a wake up call for them…

      7. the_scientist*

        I’m one of those “did I just make that face out loud?” people. I’m working on it now that I’m a manager, but I absolutely would have had the exact same reaction.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Lol, I have been known to say, “Did I just make that face/roll my eyes out loud?” before…

      8. Mike*

        If you weren’t going to take it, I don’t see the problem. Maybe I’d have even doubled down on the face: “You’re damn right I did! That’s how I always react when people insult me!”

        I once read an “interview horror stories” article, from management’s perspective. One writer said “And the interviewee just WALKED OUT in the middle of the interview!” My reaction was, “Yeah? So? They obviously didn’t want anything further to do with you, and they weren’t going to take the job. S/he just saved you both a lot of grief.”

  7. Dame Judi Brunch*

    Oh my gosh I made the list! Day made!!!
    Thank you to all who shared their stories, they were so much fun to read!

        1. Grits McGee*

          I watched a tremendous amount of Maury at my previous job*, and just the phrase “sexy decoy” brought back so many fond memories.

          *Try not to judge me too much- I was in a condemned building all on my own sorting gallons of excavated archaeological matrix for flint chips and lead shot. Maury was the only prevention for madness.

            1. Rebecca in Dallas*

              I bet “sex decoy” came up often!

              At my old job, Maury was *always* on in the break room. I didn’t particularly enjoy it but I do remember getting sucked into at least one case of questionable paternity. I had to get back on the sales floor, so I made sure to tell my coworker to update me on the outcome when she came back from her break!

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              How many times did you have to type , “You are not the father!”? Or did you just create a macro for that?

        2. mcr-red*

          Ah ha ha ha! I love it. I’m always wondering how much do they have to pay the sexy decoys to do this for the show? I certainly don’t want to make out with Cement (a real name that appeared on the show) for free!

  8. WellRed*

    No. 10 is a PSA to all to never change your medication before a trip or an interview. I felt nauseous just reading it ; )

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      And while we’re at it, don’t take a sleeping (or anti-anxiety or tranquilizing) medication for the first time ever for a plane flight. I was on a red-eye, and I found out the hard way that I tend to be a somewhat belligerant drunk.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      My high school track coach used to say “nothing new on race day”. There’s a lot of wisdom in that.

    1. Marthooh*

      Job-seekers, take note: when an interviewer asks who will play you in the biopic, the correct answer is “Johnny Depp”.

  9. LeahS*

    I missed this thread… mine was when in my first professional office job interview they asked me “If you could be any animal, which would you be” (such a dumb question btw). I answered, “A dog! I mean, they get so excited to see people that they pee. How great would it be to get that excited about things!”

    Somehow I got the job but I still giggle when I think about it. So embarrassing.

    1. Leela*

      That’s an awesome answer. I’ve been asked this question in interviews and thought it was dumb even when I got it as a teenager. Do interviewers really think that they’re so good at assessing these answers that they’ll get anything useful? I imagine it goes like this….

      Interviewer 1: What animal are you?
      Candidate, thinking strong, capable, a contender: a wolf?
      Interviewer 1: Great thank you.
      ***in the post-interview meeting***
      Interviewer 2: So what did you think?
      Interviewer 1: Hmm I don’t know they said they were a wolf as their animal. Like what, a “lone” wolf? Do we really want a “loner” on our team instead of a team player? Wolves are mean, and scary. Do we want someone who thinks they’re that intimidating? I say we pass on this one *pats self on the back for being so smart and reading between the lines so well*

          1. Leela*

            I imagine what the candidate might have been thinking when they said “a wolf” but everything else played out in the meeting. I think that people read waaaaay too much into answers like this, and put their own context and lenses on it which wouldn’t necessarily align with why a candidate said anything, it was very hard to reel the hiring managers in sometimes! Especially as they looked into stupid questions google/amazon was asking in interviews because they wanted to be like them. “How many golf balls fit in an airplane”…….why are you asking that to the person interviewing for the receptionist role…I mean why are you asking that to ANYONE (this includes you, google/amazon!)

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Sad thing is, people don’t realize wolves are kind, loyal, devoted pack animals who are terrified of humans and, as apex predators like mountain lions, they play vital roles in keeping prey species and the environment in balance.

              1. whingedrinking*

                I was once in a writing class where we had to do that Jungian exercise about “you pick up a cup, what colour is the cup? You meet a bear, what do you do?” We were told, once we’d completed the activity, that the bear represents danger and difficulty.
                One of my classmates, who’s First Nations, put up her hand and said, “The bear is my tribe’s totem.” The instructor definitely made a “whoops” face.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  I’d be all: “what kind of bear? If it’s a black bear I’d put my arms up in the air and yell really loud at it while standing my ground. If it’s a brown bear I’d put my arms up in the air, and slowly back away from it. But, is it early spring? Does the bear have cubs? Does it seem to be defensive or offensive? Do I have bear spray?”

                2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

                  Isn’t it smart to be as strong as a bear…if there is a bear? <– that kind of poetry gets presidents elected

            2. Jedi Squirrel*

              Interviewer: “How many golf balls fit in an airplane”

              Me, most likely: “More than you can fit in your mouth!”

              1. Nita*

                Me: Is the airplane empty, or like, with seats and luggage and stuff? Are they standard golf balls? Does the plane have its doors closed, because, you know, they’ll keep falling out otherwise? Are they in those little packages or just rolling loose? Is the FAA going to be OK with that?

                The interviewer: …oo… Never mind…

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Nah, this is the right way to answer. The point is to see you work through a complex problem by naming and giving a value to all the variables. Or that was the point, until everyone started asking these without knowing why.

      1. LeahS*

        So true! They had told me they just wanted to ask a “fun” question. But after getting to know the VP that asked it (my former boss)… he probably liked the answer because it made me seem relentlessly optimistic. I was not so optimistic by the time I quit that place lol

      2. Le Sigh*

        This is why I hate these kinds of questions. I don’t even know what example I’d give in a job setting. IRL, I would just say hippo — no one messes with them and they sit in mud all day being grumpy.

        1. Auntie Social*

          Yes, there are college sports teams called the Wolfpack. I think being part of a wolf pack would be a good thing.

    2. Wing Leader*

      Haha, something similar happened to me too once. I got asked the same question (why! Why do they ask this question?!) and I said, “A cat, because then I could do nothing but sleep and eat all day.” I was a dumb teenager at the time and did not realize until later how lazy that made me sound, which is not how you want to present yourself to an employer lol. I did not get the job.

    3. Beatrice*

      I have worked with a manager who looooves asking this question as part of his regular interview routine. He’s bad at interviewing and also hiring.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I would never use this question, but I guess I could see some limited usefulness in seeing how a candidate thinks on their feet. I sometimes listen to a career advice call-in show and some people are operating in such a narrow box that they cannot answer any of the host’s questions. He’ll say, “What do you enjoy?” and the caller says, “Ummmm.” Then maybe they say the like basketball and cake, and the host is like, “But what do you enjoy in your WORK?” Variations of this go on for a minute, and I’m listening and losing my mind. I can’t deal very well with people who can’t think quickly.

      So what I’m saying is you could be a goldfish, a lion, or a dickcissel, but as long as you could say something and give any reason, I’d be okay with it.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I have always imagined that it’s not the animal that’s interesting, but the reasoning. Something like:
        I’m a bee because I’d like to sting people (bad)
        because bees do the bee dance and I like dancing (neutral)
        because I enjoy working together with others towards a common goal (good)

        Well, I don’t know, but that’s how I imagine it, anyway.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        Oh! Just looked up dickcissel, and it’s actually a cute little yellow bird instead of a brand-new curse word.

        1. yala*

          We play a lot of Wingspan, and always cheer a little bit when the dickcissel comes out. It’s just such a fun word to say! Dickcissel!

          (side note: Wingspan is a lovely game of collecting birds and it’s just FUN. 11/10 highly recommend)

      3. The New Wanderer*

        But “What do you enjoy?” with no other context is a surprisingly hard question to answer in an interview context, along the lines of “Tell me about yourself.” Not because people can’t think on their feet but because it’s really hard to tell what is really being asked – enjoy personally? enjoy at work? enjoy theoretically but have no free time or opportunity to actually do?

        So the follow up question should just be the first question – “what do you enjoy about your work?” or “Tell me about your career progression/what got you into this field?”

        If someone asked me “What animal would you be?” in a job interview, I would be stuck on picking an animal that felt most like ME and not picking an animal that somehow conveys my work style or ethic. Okay, I wouldn’t because I’m clearly a fox in human form so that’s a no brainer, but I did actually get “What kind of tree would you be?” once and yeah, same problem.
        Asking “What animal best describes you at work?” is marginally better if that’s the information you are really looking for.

    5. Threeve*

      “I’m not sure what animal I would choose to be. I was a medium-sized reticulated python in a previ0us life, though.”

    6. Jean*

      This is a great answer to a bad interview question. My answer to this question, incidentally, is a giant Huntsman spider. Because I would love to have 8 legs, 8 eyes, and scare the living crap out of everyone with nothing but my presence.

    7. voluptuousfire*

      That’s a great answer! My cousin’s chiweenie used to excitement pee whenever he met new people.

    8. Jennifer Juniper*

      I would have said a dog, then added team player, loyal, passionate about the company’s mission statement, takes feedback, gets along with all, fast learner, etc. etc. etc.

  10. Ewpp*

    For some reason, I read that as salted caramel coffee. I kept looking for that story. I was wondering what went wrong there. But I am sick af today. Ha ha

  11. KayDeeAye*

    Not a job interview, but a colleague and I were having a drinks-and-munchies (various things including chicken wings, which is an important detail) with our new boss, and my colleague – because he couldn’t find a spoon, I guess? – stirred his coffee with a *chicken bone*. He just kept right on finishing his thought while stirring his coffee with a gnawed-on bone.

    It was hilarious, but also a bit…disturbing? He was a perfectly nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but it was just so weird and clueless.

    1. I edit everything*

      I get miffed when Edits Nothing stirs his tea with the back end of a knife. I think a bone would have had me screaming and making a slo-mo dive to block the move or something. OMG

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Before I glanced up at your screen name, I thought Edits Nothing was the name of some YouTube or Insta personality!

    2. Mme Pince*

      I used to have a undergraduate tutor (TA) who would wring out his hot teabag with his hand instead of using a spoon. My friend thought it was hot and manly, but I thought it was gross.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      It was so weird. He was (and is – I still keep more or less in touch with him) not one of those people who do these weird things and thinks “And if anybody doesn’t like it, to heck with them.” No, no, no. Instead, he’s one of those people who frequently does clueless things without thinking about them and then fixates on them for hours, days, weeks and months, torturing himself with how the people who saw him do a particular clueless thing might feel about it.

      In this case, after *thoroughly* stirring his coffee with that chicken bone, he did finally notice that both Newboss and I were looking more than a bit askance at his Og-the-Caveman Drinking Coffee act, and for days and weeks later, he repeatedly asked me if I thought Newboss had noticed (answer: Ohhhhhh, yeah) and if I thought Newboss thought it was weird. I could not bring myself to say, “Oh, surely not.” Because come on.

    1. Mike*

      At first I thought it was the Dvorak keyboard one, and I thought “Well, that’s cute and awkward, but nothing terribly remarkable.” Then I scrolled down and I was like “Ohh…THAT one…”

  12. Hi Mom!*

    These stories remind me of a story my mom told me about an interview she was in.

    During the middle of the interview she happened to look down at her leg and noticed a really loooooong black hair trapped by her pantyhose that essentially ran from ankle to knee… she didn’t have black long hair (she had blond short hair) but her sister did.

    She said that she got to giggling about it and just couldn’t stop and then had to try to explain why she had a sudden case of the giggles to a stone faced interviewer who didn’t see the humor, which as you know will make everything about 10 times funnier. She said that after not being able to compose herself after several minutes she just gave up… the interviewer cut the interview short.

    She did not get that job.

    1. Radio Girl*

      Interviewing for an insurance marketing job after college, I stupidly wore a skirt that buttoned doen the center. It popped open during a interview.

      I stupidly mentioned it.

      I did not get the job.

  13. Pop Culture Ignoramus*

    I would be really annoyed to be asked who would play me in a movie. I’m terrible at remembering actors’ names to begin with, and as a mixed race person I would want to be played by someone of a similar background. The options are then very limited and it would be kind of awkward to be like I can’t think of anyone because I don’t know enough non-white actors.

    1. Leela*

      Me: *long sigh* Ruby Rose I guess, because I’m bisexual and there’s like three of us?

      Not that I’d out myself in an interview but you raise an interesting point, this question is much more friendly to white, straight, cis, able-bodied people!

      1. Beatrice*

        I think that’s part of what makes the response in the earlier thread so funny! Why go with Scarlett Johansson and have them wondering if I am delusional enough to think there’s a passing resemblance, when I can mystify them by suggesting Johnny Depp? They might say, “But Beatrice, you don’t look anything like Johnny Depp!” and then I can say “A – Willy Wonka, Captain Jack Sparrow, and the Mad Hatter also look nothing like one another, it’s amazing what they can do with makeup and CGI these days, B – he’s an Oscar-nominated actor and I’m sure he can figure it out, and C – please tell me that looking like Johnny Depp is not a qualification you’re looking for in this position.” And they either have to admit to themselves that it’s a great answer to the question, or that it’s a ridiculous question…either way, the OP made herself a memorable candidate, maybe not in the best possible way, but they’ll be talking/thinking about her, and it might have given her a bit of a leg up. It’s fun to answer ridiculous questions ridiculously.

        1. whingedrinking*

          “Cate Blanchett played Bob Dylan so well some people didn’t realize she wasn’t a man. I’m sure Johnny is at least as accomplished as an actor.”

          1. Artemesia*

            I’d probably go with Tilda Swinton or Cate Blanchett because of their wonderful ability to be anyone.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      Helen Mirren. (I’m male.) Because she’s one of the great actors of our time, and can turn any role into something special. And I’d hate to think playing me in a movie would be *easy*.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        She played Prospero ten years ago and was INCREDIBLE. Gender absolutely no bar to excellent acting.

    3. Lord Gouldian Finch*

      The concept people must, absolutely, follow celebrities is one of those “culture fit” things that I think can actually serve as a subtle way to institute an unintentional bias in recruiting.

      On the other hand, I’m a white dude and I might say “Mahershala Ali, we need more diversity in Hollywood.”

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        For real. I would be utterly stumped because I don’t watch enough movies to have any ideas at all.

    4. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      You can use this as a way to suss out the company’s ability at humor, though. If you’re a mixed-race woman and you’re asked who would play you in a movie, you could respond “Ronald Reagan” and see what happens. If they can’t roll with it, and just sit there staring, do you really want to work for them? For me, that would be valuable office-culture information.

    5. Koala dreams*

      Maybe you have a relative that could play you? A cousin or niece, for example. I recently saw a movie where the main character’s uncle was played by the real uncle of the actress that played the niece. The uncle works as a farmer and is not an actor otherwise.

      1. Deejay*

        When the character of Amy Pond (played as an adult by Karen Gillan) first appeared in Doctor Who, she was a child. After their initial meeting the Doctor jumped forward in time to meet the adult Amy. Child Amy was played by Gillan’s cousin Caitlin Blackwood so they could match her red hair.

        1. Mel 2*

          .The young actor they hired, in part to match Gillian’s appearance, just so happened to be her cousin. While it was played by Gillian’s cousin, they’re distant cousins and didn’t know each other prior to filming the show.

    6. many bells down*

      Yeah I’d probably just name someone from whatever I’ve most recently watched. The first name that popped into my head was “Alan Cumming”. I am neither Scottish nor a man.

      1. PurpleMonster*

        I love Alan Cumming! I’m the same btw – my first thought was Adam Driver. I am also not a man. However, I would be happy for any of his romantic leads to play me ;-)

    7. Rosemary*

      Saaaame. But at least now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, I would probably go with something like “An aspiring new actor whose career is launched by their stellar success in my biopic.”

      Neatly sidesteps the “I don’t know any actors names” and has the bonus of helping someone start their career, which I like the idea of.

    8. Boomerang Girl*

      You can probably get away with not naming an actor but naming what you would look for in an actor. Same applies to animal, car, tree or anything you are asked to compare yourself to .

    9. char*

      Same. I would want to be played by a trans man, because I am one, but I don’t know the names of any trans male actors off the top of my head.

      Also no one should be making a biopic about me in the first place, it would be mind-numbingly boring.

    10. ceiswyn*

      After reading through this thread, I now have an answer for the future. I’ll take Siân Phillips, please. Because if she was able to make Livia in I CLAVDIVS both terrifying and sympathetic, she has the dramatic range to accurately characterise my ability to terrorise information out of SMEs while still remaining an approachable and cooperative member of the team.
      Plus, she has the cheekbones ;)

  14. Thatsmyfavoritekind*

    I’m number six! Glad that more people than just my family can enjoy this story now.

    To anyone wondering, I did not get the job. I never heard from the woman again, I assume because she immediately burned my resume and destroyed any trace that I had ever stepped foot in her office. It’s what I would have done.

    My favorite part is that I somehow didn’t even realize what had happened in the moment. I vividly remember leaving the building, my interview heels clip-clipping all confidently, thinking, “Wow, that could have been so awkward, but I really saved it! I bet I really impressed her when… I said…my favorite kind of sex… is…” and then just feeling the horror descend on me.

    I looked up her books on Amazon and they did pretty well, so good for her. I hope she remembers the interview with the same fond mortification as I do.

    1. Leela*

      I like to imagine that the five stages of acceptance played out on your face in like ten minutes or less. I’m so sorry but at least you got a story out of it!

    2. coldfingers*

      thank you for responding – I’m so disappointed that you didn’t get the job – i was envisioning a fabulous collaboration!!!

  15. El*

    LW #1 — If it makes you feel any better: when asked the same question, Rachel Maddow gave the same answer as you!

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Given some of the interview stories we’ve seen here over the years, I don’t think it’s reasonable to automatically assume that a question about one’s greatest accomplishment automatically refers to a *work* accomplishment. That could actually have been the sort of answer they were looking for.

    2. ellex42*

      Personally, I think maintaining a healthy long-term relationship is absolutely something to be proud of, going by the horror and sob stories my coworkers over the years have regaled me with.

  16. never again*

    There was the time I showed up for an interview at 8:30 am still drunk from the night before. For years I told myself it probably wasn’t obvious, but if I think about it honestly, I’m sure it was. I’d showered and everything, but I’m willing to bet I still reeked.

    I no longer drink at all.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      We had an applicant turn up for the drug test drunk. (We hired him. He was only barely over the legal limit, and said he didn’t realize alcohol was included, and we were able to confirm with the lab that he’d been driven there by someone else because he’d had a couple of beers.)

      1. never again*

        I’m glad you didn’t hold it against him! While some might say that he showed poor judgment, I can absolutely see someone thinking that it’s just popping by the lab to pee in a cup, nbd, and why would a beer matter?

        1. Magenta Sky*

          Once we confirmed he hadn’t driven himself, we figured it showed *good* judgement. He knew he’d had a few, and shouldn’t be driving, and frankly, I’m not sure any of *us* realized alcohol was including in the test.

  17. Legal Rugby*

    I miss this last week, but – I did a skype interview for a semi-prestigious position clerking. I cleaned my whole room, tested the wifi ten times, wore a suit. I was planning on moving across the country to be near my partner and this job was within 30 mins of her. I NEEDED THIS JOB.

    Didn’t know until after I had gotten the job, accepted the offer and started, that the whole time we were on skype, the only thing visible behind me was a life-sized Captain America shield that I had (for some reason) hung over my wall air conditioner as I sorted things into piles a few days before. My boss introduced me as “the one with the shield” to the entire department.

    1. Leela*

      This is great because I, too, would be mortified, but I’m going to guess that the interviewers probably thought it was just fine, quirky at worst (and if they would actually take you out of the running for that I’d really question them!)

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Given the popularity of superhero movies these days, being a fan isn’t even nerdy any more. In fact, it’s getting to be more nerdy to *not* be a fan.

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      Aww, that’s actually a lovely story!

      I could easily imagine that happening to me. Only in my case, it would probably be something with a Hogwarts crest On it, lol.

      1. Legal Rugby*

        I 100% got called out by a judge for wearing a Ravenclaw tie under my sweater in court. It was halloween, so he let it go, but he told me later that his first tip off was that I was wearing a blue and black sweater under my suit jacket, when i was famous for never wearing a jacket in court.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I want one of those!

      I have a small Cap shield fob attached to my purse. I was going to take it off for interviews, but I figured, eh, either the interviewer won’t know what it is and won’t care, or they will and it will be a bonding moment.

    4. Marthooh*


      Yes, I’m old.

  18. mcr-red*

    #7 – Maury is my guilty pleasure show, so we could have a fun conversation about paternity tests and lie detector tests!

      1. mcr-red*

        So how did they react when you brought up Maury? Were they like, “What is this Maury you speak of?” or like me and are all, “Did you see the last one where he wasn’t the father and the lady ran off the stage and into a ladder?”

        1. Dame Judi Brunch*

          They seemed ok with it. They loved my breakdown of the show and they asked me questions.
          This interview was for a bank too. It was surreal.

  19. Leela*

    #9 – “I was asked who would play me if my someone made a biopic about me” I…I kind of hate this interview question! It really makes me question the interviewers. What useful thing did they think they were going to get out of this, even if you’d answered perfectly? What purpose does this serve, other than making them feel like *cool* interviewers who ask *cool* interview questions? You mention you got the job and I’m deathly curious: what was it like? I’d take this question as a red flag that these people aren’t trying to learn how to interview effectively (which is a yellow flag to me that they’re not trying to learn how to manage effectively either).

    I’m thinking best case scenario you get a really eloquent but fake answer to a question like that. “Oh I’d be played by X because of her humanitarian efforts (so please think that I’m humanitarian and therefore would be good for the job!)” or “I’d be played by Y because the characters he plays always gets things done (so please take that to mean that I’m good at getting things done!)” Just terrible self-assessments based on nothing that sound good in an interview. I’m just baffled that they would ask this!

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I hate questions like this. Let me just name some random brunette, because I don’t know actors? Idk???

    2. Amber Rose*

      I would probably also name a random male actor, if I could even name anybody, because I don’t pay attention to celebrity names. I can only think of Sir Ian McKellen at the moment for example because I was just reading something about him.

      Otherwise my answer would be “that chick who plays that nerdy girl in that one movie, whatever her name is.”

    3. Mel 2*

      Hopefully the interviewer realized it was idiotic to include, hence why LW’s answer did not impact her being offered the job!

      1. Leela*

        I’m going to guess that they ask this not to exclude people based on their answer (at least I hope, unless someone says “I’d be played by famed Nazi What’shisname” or something like that which I’d definitely understand excluding over) but to “ease up” tension on the candidate even though it definitely wouldn’t, or to make them sound fun, or to make the interview more interesting to themselves, the interviewers? Otherwise I really can’t imagine that they’re like “oh no they said Natalie Portman and my boss hates her, guess we can’t hire this one” but I’ve seen equally dumb decisions made in hiring so who knows

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Which reminds me of the Michigan football coach who just got suspended after one week on the job because he didn’t get asked “which historical figure would you like to have dinner with?” until a student reporter was interviewing him.

          He answered Hitler. And for every wrong reason you can think of.

          Sometimes the softball interview questions really do need to be asked.

    4. Wing Leader*

      I love movies and actors and I can name quite a few. Even so, I think this is a dumb question. I don’t see what they could possibly learn from your answer. I guess it may be just one of those “for fun” questions. But still.

      The *only* time I can think of where this question may be relevant is if you are applying for a job in the movie or entertainment business and knowing about these people is very important to your job. Even then, it seems like a stretch.

    5. ellex42*

      After a super professional interview for a managerial position full of super serious questions about how I’d handle all sorts of professional and managerial issues, I was asked “If someone wrote a biography of your life, what would the title be?’

      And I just sat there for a looooong moment before saying, bewildered, “No one would write a biography of my life. It hasn’t been that interesting.”

      They cajoled me into giving some kind of answer, which ended up being, “I don’t know, “Slave to Cats”, I guess, since one of my cats got me up an hour before my alarm was set to go off.” One of the interviewers asked hesitantly, “How many cats do you have?”

      And my mouth just spewed out, “Only two right now, but at one point I had three cats and a dog who thought he was a cat too.”

      I didn’t get the job, although I don’t think it was due to my answer to that question.

      1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

        That’s all my brain gives me too. “Nobody would make a biopic/write a biography of my life. It’s just not that interesting.”
        I also think “You aren’t hiring me as a casting agent, so I don’t know what the purpose of this question is.” but that would probably be even less of a great answer in an interview.

    6. annakarina1*

      I’d be embarrassed if I named some gorgeous actress and they’d think I was delusional about my average appearance and have a “Yeah, ok/Sure, Jan” inner reaction to it.

      1. Threeve*

        Same. I think I would probably say something like “I don’t know. The celebrity I get compared to most often is Tina from Bob’s Burgers, who is a cartoon character.”

      2. InsufficentlySubordinate*

        I think I decided that I will say Deadpool. (Not Ryan Reynolds, but the character, Deadpool.) Because I can sorta see costumed Deadpool muffled yelling at the cat laying on his face at 3 am.

    7. Schnookums Von Fancypants, Naughty Basic Horse*

      I would tell them I want to be played by Samuel L. Jackson (Author’s note: The only reason I’m not the whitest human being alive is because albinos exist). If asked why I would answer “Only someone who has his level of skill with the word “Motherf-er” could possibly portray me.” I mean, if I’m ready to burn the interview to the ground at that point there’s no sense doing it with a tiny fire…

  20. Annony*

    What kind of interview question is #9? I hate hypotheticals like that. What exactly do they hope to learn? Who your favorite actor is? Who you think you maybe look a little like? I w0uld like to think I would give a ridiculous answer to that question.

    1. irene adler*

      And how, exactly, will the answer relate to the job description? Walk me through the thinking and maybe I’ll have a response for this asinine question. Otherwise, you’re just “kissing to be clever”.

    2. Leela*

      That’s a good point, I can see a lot of people basis this on who they think they maybe look a little like, which ….they know what you look like unless they’re sight impaired, they don’t need you to tell them! But I think a lot of people would base their answer on that because usually in biopics they choose someone who looks a little like the person they’re depicting and not someone who embodies them in all essence of their being

  21. Czhorat*

    IN fairness to #9, that’s a really stupid question.

    Picking an actor of the “wrong” gender or body-type could be a bold way to flip the question if you did it deliberately. It has been written that there’s a fine line between “clever” and “stupid”.

    1. Leela*

      Interviewer to me: So who would play you, a tall, white woman coming up on middle age?
      Me: …..Kevin Hart. Challenge that, i DARE you

      1. Nanc*

        I’m a 6′, 60 year old red head and were I asked this I’d say Linda Hunt because really, is there anything she can’t pull off acting-wise?!

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        If I ever get a chance, I’m totally going to say “Johnny Depp”. And I am so.very.female. But c’mon! A pirate with eyeliner? An actor who says “All my characters are gay”? The guy who played Edward Scissorhands? Yeah, he can totally play me in my biopic.

        1. Threeve*

          Johnny Depp would have been an okay answer ten years ago, but his reputation has not aged gracefully…

  22. I AM a Lawyer*

    I love number 9. A question that useless deserves an answer that doesn’t make any sense.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I liked the answer to #9… He’s known for being able to play diverse characters so it could be spun that the OP could also play a lot of different roles in a company. So whoever the actress/actor was who played them would have to be equally up for the task… Johnny Depp!

      1. Czhorat*

        He also abused his wife, so might not be the one you’d want to choose to represent you.

        But yeah, I wish I had the guts to say “Meryl Streep” or something. If they ask why, just look them in the eye and ask, “who WOULDN’T want to be played by Meryl Streep?”

        I’m much braver inside my own head.

        1. Mel 2*

          Even better answer if you aren’t a white woman (and so have different a demographic makeup than Meryl Streep).

            1. Mel 2*

              Exactly. I am a white woman, so saying Meryl Streep wouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a comment on her amazing acting ability.

        2. Wing Leader*

          I had a feeling someone would have to bring that up. I don’t think it’s quite fair for us to automatically assume he’s the abuser because he’s a man. You do know that both police officers that were called to their house separately stated that she was not injured as she claimed, so they left? Annnnddd that Amber Heard has a history of abusing her partners (if you look it up, you’ll see that she has been arrested for it before)? I don’t want to argue about this or derail anything because that’s not what this thread is about. I just want to caution you to think before you speak and remind you that you may not know everything you think you do.

          1. Bee*

            Whether or not the abuse was mutual (it very well may have been), there’s significant visual documentation of the injuries and bruises Amber Heard sustained during her marriage to Depp that support her claims that he physically abused her.

          2. Eirene*

            Why is there always somebody who has to defend this dude whenever he pops up? You definitely said this to derail the thread, even though you claim that this isn’t what the thread is about. I’ve also read a lot more about Amber Heard than you have, so maybe cool it with the condescending reminders.

          1. fposte*

            From pianist Glenn Gould: “I’m very much the anti-hero in real life, but I compensate like mad in my dreams.”

      2. irene adler*

        Yes -exactly! With a question like this, it’s more about the actor’s ability to portray the job candidate than it is about selecting an actor that is similar in some fashion (same gender, or age or physical appearance). So I would see this as a test of the candidate’s ability to accurately size up someone’s skills or ability to perform a task. In this case, the candidate made a good choice by selecting a very talented actor who would be ‘up for the task’.

      1. Wing Leader*

        How about this one? “Moose, the horse who played Thranduil’s elk in The Hobbit trilogy.” Yes, he really was a horse named Moose lol that played an elk lol.

        1. Leela*

          If they write a biography of him, they should call it “A horse named Moose that played an elk”

        2. Amy Sly*

          I discovered this divergence of terminology when I started watching Austrian public television. To Americans, Moose the horse played Thranduil’s moose. In America, an elk looks more like a giant deer with pointy antlers, not shovel-shaped antlers.

    2. LunaLena*

      I wonder what would happen if you answered with an actor who has already passed away. And when they point that out, say “well I always figured any story about my life would involve the zombie apocalypse” with a straight face. A useless question like that deserves a dumb answer indeed.

  23. Sled dog mana*

    I have never had anything quite like these fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective). The worst I can remember was an interview for a job I was a bit wishy-washy on. I liked the location, duties would fit my experience perfectly but I’d heard some yellow flags about management.
    I was really well prepared for the typical interview questions (describe a time you did this, etc) and prepared to discuss my views on several important topics in my field, what I was not prepared for was to be asked to do several very detailed calculations by hand without reference to a textbook or access to a calculator. These are things that in my profession you know how to do but everyone uses at least a spreadsheet if not an actual program to do these calculations once you are out of school. I think I stared blankly at the person asking this and then mumbled something about needing their data book. I have totally blocked the rest of the interview.
    In 10 years this is the only time I have encountered this question, and I was 3 years into my career, if I couldn’t do a basic calculation it would have been discovered before then.

    1. S-Mart*

      That reminds me I had an interview like that. I was 15 or years into my career, talking about some heat exchanger design I’d done. The interviewer, who was the chief engineer of the company, wanted to know the specific equations I used and would not let it go. He must have gone back to the question at least half a dozen times. I have reference books for these things, I don’t need to memorize them.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I had an interview similar to that as well. It was for an internal promotion and even though I was already an employee had to go through all of the same steps as external candidates which included a phone interview with a member of the recruiting team. I took the call in a conference room about 25 feet from my desk and after exchanging a few pleasantries, he started asking me a bunch of technical questions that had nothing to do with the role. After 2 or 3, I asked to clarify if we were talking about the right role since the open position did nothing with tax codes or depreciation. He said yes, we are looking at X role but the hiring manager wants to make sure the candidate has a strong finance background and these are “standard questions for finance”. I told him that made no sense with what I knew about the role and he got a little snippy with me that “I think the recruitment team and hiring manager know more about the role than you do”. I responded with, the hiring manager does but you don’t. I’ve been doing the role for several months now after Wakeen left and those items are not part of the job.” He continued to argue and my boss (who was also the hiring manager) happened to walk by so I waved him in.
      Things did not go well for the recruiter after that. Boss ended up calling the recruitment manager and asking what the hell was going on. Apparent this newly hired recruiter did some research about how to hire the best candidates and created his own little Q&A forms for each area that were mind bogglingly bad. Now there were already interview guidelines for what this team was supposed to ask. Things like validating items on resumes, education and experience, making sure everyone was on the same page in terms of salary, etc… He never asked those questions and apparently missed the fact that I was a current employee already working in the hiring managers team, doing the job, and had put on his little sheet “not qualified…doesn’t know about tax code”. The job was for a cost and inventory accountant. We had entire departments dedicated to fixed assets and tax…this job was in neither of those departments.
      He was pulled off doing interviews after it was determined that he had put through some very unqualified candidates and rejected several great ones resulting in critical positions being open way too long because the hiring managers refused to hire sub-par candidates. He was eventually let go.
      I did get the job but that is another (terrible) story.

      1. Mel*

        Wooooow. I would’ve loved to see the recruiter’s face when he realised the hiring manager was on your side and everything else that came after.
        It also makes me think, how many other people should’ve gotten jobs they didn’t because of someone’s arbitrary f-up like this?

  24. Hazelnut Sundae*

    I got asked the same question as #9 once in an interview a long time ago. As a 6 -foot tall redhaired woman, my response was nonchalantly, “Why, Samuel L. Jackson, of course.”

    The interviewer then went on a tangent about why he wouldn’t be a great fit and to take the question more seriously. I responded by asking “Why not, he’s got my intensity and liberal use of swears words down pat. Put on a red wig and Boom! Oscar Gold.”

    I didn’t get the job.

    1. many bells down*

      I’m changing all my previous ideas about this question because Samuel L. Jackson is ALWAYS the right answer.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      This is a completely valid answer. SLJ is a veteran actor, has been in films from Shaft (the reboot) to Star Wars to To Do The Right Thing to A Time to Kill. He’s a renaissance man who has done a bit of everything AND overcome addiction.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      I once quoted SLJ as Nick Fury to a project manager : “That’s a stupid-ass decision and I chose to ignore it”. Because a) it was and b) I knew the PM was cool enough to roll with it.

      1. Drew*

        I dropped a “no boom today. Boom tomorrow” reference on colleagues who didn’t get it. Philistines.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Interviewer: “Take the question more seriously”
      Me: “I don’t feel right about just assigning someone a role like that, really there should be a select group of actors who are called in to audition for it, like an interview in a way. Then I would weigh their acting ability and credentials against the needs of the role and what they bring to the film overall, and offer the role to the best actor. Or maybe I could just ask them what animal they would be and the first one to guess correctly gets the part.”

  25. Roja*

    I actually love the answer to #1. Although it wasn’t what the interviewer was looking for, it was really valuable information (and super sweet to boot). Ahhh, here’s someone who knows what a healthy relationship is and how to have one. Good! They value their family and friends. Good! That bodes well for their relationships with colleagues.

    Then why wouldn’t you just, as the interviewer, just follow up? “What a lovely thing to say! I was actually thinking professionally though–what would you say is your greatest accomplishment at work?”

    I’m of the opinion that if that’s enough to sink your interview then the job would be a real pain to have, but maybe that’s just me.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is something to be proud of. Heck I consider one of my greatest accomplishments my divorce from my first husband. Raised that divorce was sin and a tremendous personal failing and in a bad but not abusive relationship, I still had the sense and courage to get out early before kids with him. I still marvel that the undeveloped vestigial person I was then managed to do that. Without that most of the happiness of the rest of my life would not be possible. Not a good interview response, but still true. I managed as noted in a post below to commit an entirely different faux pah on interview.

        1. Artemesia*

          Me too. And I am pretty sure my ex has had a happier life too with the woman he eventually married. Nothing wrong with him; we were just not a good match.

    2. Washi*

      I don’t know that it gives you that much valuable information (unless the candidate got really specific with what makes a healthy relationship, which maybe she did) but I agree that the interviewers should have redirected her!

      Maybe they were just too awkward to know how to ask again, but it annoys me when interviewers seem to prefer to watch someone flounder when they misunderstand a question. Sure, note their confusion and watch out for other signs of cluelessness, but also, the point of asking this question was to get some particular information from the candidate! Just rephrase if they’re not telling you what you need to know!

      1. Roja*

        Right, misunderstandings happen ALL the time. Just redirect! It’s really not a big deal. I can’t even begin to describe how many times I’ve answered a question in conversation as best I could, only to realize ages later that they might have meant their question in a slightly different way. Just clarify, for pete’s sake.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        I know, right? “Wow, that’s really nice! And what would you say is your greatest work accomplishment?” would be a polite segue that points to an appreciation of the human aspect of their candidate as well as their professional qualifications.

  26. Re'lar Fela*

    Definitely misread “phantom pigeon” as “phantom penguin” and was a little disappointed when I got to the actual story….whoops!

      1. Re'lar Fela*

        Oh, the story was great! But I was looking for penguins and found pigeons instead, so my mental image shifted. Which was a tiny bit of a bummer because, c’mon, phantom penguins. Also, I super wish I could use emojis here. I’ve forgotten how to communicate without them *facepalm emoji*

  27. Artemesia*

    I still reel from a misstep on the interview that led to my long term career job. My husband and I nearly 50 years ago kept our own names at marriage. I had a 2 year old at the time of my interview. My last name is okay as a last name but sort of ugly; my husband has a vanilla British sort of name. The professor who took us to dinner asked us how we handled naming our son given two last names (this was the south so it was already weird to all of them that we did this). I said, ‘Well if my name were (Vanillaenglish hisname) and his were (myuglyname) we would have named him Vanilla Ugly; but since Myuglylastname would be a terrible first name, we decided to just hyphenate the last names. Pause. Turns our the professor’s son’s first name was, yes, ba da bum, Myuglylastname. We have never encountered another person with that name ever; it is a terrible first name; it seemed so unfair that I could step in it so thoroughly denigrating what was MY name. But there it was.

    This was the same interview cycle where I was asked in a committee interview if I planned to have more children and replied ‘That is between my husband, me and God.’ Found out years later that led to one person to support my candidacy due to my deep religious faith. Go figure.

    1. Mel 2*

      I love how your “None of your business” response to the children question was interpreted as “deep religious faith!”

      1. Artemesia*

        Really!! I mean what are the odds. When I told my son that story when he was a teen, he told me that he was at a Blockbuster and there was a young guy calling a toddler ‘mylastname, mylastname’ and he said ‘that guy must have been the son of your interviewer and the toddler is the grandson. It is believe me not a name you would want to hang on a kid. I fumbled around in the interview like a fool talking about how the ‘last name first name’ tradition in the south was different from where I grew up and I was just getting used to it.

    2. The real fake Eleanor*

      Uggghhh, I can relate. I had an internet friend who always referred to her child as his first initial (say, “F”) in the forum we were both part of, but as we got closer and started messaging each other privately, she finally told me his real name. It was something along the lines of Finkerwell. I wrote “lol,” thinking she was joking. She wasn’t. :( Not a promising start to a friendship. But we are somehow still friends.

  28. Brainstorming*

    Not a job interview, but I once witnessed a cringe-worthy on-stage pageant interview:

    Emcee: Tell us about the last book you read and why you liked it.
    Contestant: Um…er…well…I don’t really read a lot of books…um (continues to hem and haw before suddenly coming to attention behind the mic) OH! I know. 50 Shades of Grey. Because I’m really into that kind of thing.

    The audience didn’t even know to to react to that!

  29. Anonymous at a University*

    One of my friends told me about the first time she interviewed for an academic job after graduate school, and one of the interviewers asked what she would do if a student came to her and started asking very personal questions (basically, she told me, they were probably looking for some sense of boundaries and appropriate responses while also being supportive to the student). For some reason, she said, “I’ve already been in this situation!”, and told them about a conversation she’d had with an undergrad when she was still a graduate student that was all about what a bastard my friend’s ex was.

    She did not the job, and to this day says she doesn’t know why she told that story.

  30. Another worker bee*

    #4, I feel like….you shouldn’t be that embarrassed about that? I’ve totally been startled by birds flying into the window, so I would have accepted your explanation and not thought any more of it!

    1. Mary*

      Yes, I agree. You did nothing wrong, other than react in a perfectly normal way. I would have done the same thing!

      1. Nic*

        I think the interviewers didn’t hear the bird hit the glass, and when they turned around it had flown off, so… I suspect they thought LW#4 was either delusional or making up an excuse to cover for their distraction/face-pulling.

    2. Brett*

      Seriously, I think the interviewers were a bit jerky.
      We unfortunately have very mirrored windows, so we get bird strikes from hummingbirds, turkeys, geese, and all sorts of songbirds. I have no qualms about being late to a meeting or leaving a meeting or other work function to take care of a hurt bird. I will message people to let them know why (and that I will wash my hands thoroughly before I come to the meeting).

    3. Melissa*

      I agree! Also the pigeon probably flew away and died somewhere else…that’s usually what happens when a bird appears ok after a window strike.

  31. Automated*

    Lunch interview at a university. Waiter comes by offering water. Im a bit brain fried so I don’t quite manage to say no and for some reason..
    Move my cup AS SHE POURS so it spills everywhere
    And then while I am thinking OH I am so sorry!
    My brain is still lagging
    So I say loudly borderline yelling
    And it took me far to long to catch up and apologize.

    I left a nice tip and apology note on the reciept but alas no job.

  32. LapisLazuli*

    I was asked once who my favorite Kardashian was. I chuckled for a second until I realized they were serious. I answered Scott. Follow up question: why? I said, “Because you know how in that one episode Kim got a free yoga membership and he said ‘Thank god, you never would have been able to afford it.’? That’s why.”

    Turned out, every single day there was some sort of celebrity gossip session for about… an hour or two. I left pretty quickly.

      1. LapisLazuli*

        I wish I had that answer then but mine was the only one that wasn’t a complete lie. I’ll have to remember in case I ever run across the question again.

      2. Rob aka Mediancat*

        Garak would be my answer were I ever asked this ridiculous question, so I’m with you, believe me.

  33. Lisa*

    A friend of mine was in an interview with a CEO of a mid-sized company for a business development director role and well this was the 90’s and those lee press on nails were all the rage. She was a bit nervous and was picking at her nails… and well one popped off and smacked her interviewer right in the face.

  34. Newbie*

    I missed the original thread, but I do have a story to add! I was working as an HR Generalist at a small business that sold tattoo and piercing equipment and we were basically always hiring for warehouse staff. I was interviewing a woman for one of our open warehouse positions and right away I could tell that she was… off. She started the interview by gushing about how excited she was to be interviewed and how much she loved our company (cool), how meeting me was like meeting Beyonce (weird), and then she started crying (what the actual f***). I had no clue how to respond to this and asked if she was okay, and she said, “I’m sorry, I’m really high right now.” I wish I could say that I had an amazing response back, but I was so shocked that I just asked her another question or two and then quickly walked her out. Let’s just say she did not get the job.

  35. Dismal Scientist*

    I wish I had seen the original post! When I interviewed for my current job I wore the exact same suit (with unique detailing) and a blouse of the exact same color as the head of the agency. It didn’t help that we have the exact same name and she was about a foot shorter than me. It still gets brought up all the time.

  36. LunaLena*

    I still cringe when I think of a job interview I was at when my cell phone went off. I hardly ever got calls (the benefit of being an introvert!), so I simply didn’t think to turn it off. I apologized and silenced the ringer, the interviewers laughed and said it was okay, and the interview proceeded… until less than a minute later, when my phone went off to let me know I had a voice message. At the time, I thought it was humorous to have, as my voice message notification ringtone, a recording of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons saying “Feels like I’m wearing nothing at all… Nothing At All… NOTHING AT ALL” followed by Homer saying “Stupid sexy Flanders!” We all sat there in silence while the entire clip played. I wanted to sink into the floor and die.

    Fortunately for me, the interviewers thought it was funny, and I got the job anyways. The call turned out to be a friend, ironically calling to find out how the interview went. And I learned to always turn off my phone completely before an interview.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      I just re-watched that episode! It’s greatness. Even though I would have enjoyed the moment, my default is to avoid ~awkwardness~ at all costs, so I literally would have been sitting their smiling and then just carried on once it stopped.

  37. Nessun*

    Knowing what limited amount I do about Alison, I think the best part of all these stories is imagining her reading through the comments with a cuppa, thinking YESSSS and laughing at every single one. I feel like both this and the original post comment sections are probably her Favourite Thing Ever right now…next to the cats. :)

  38. Alton*

    I actually have thought about who I’d want to play me in a movie, and it’s my favorite cis male actor, because even though I’m a female-presenting non-binary person, he’s the closest to how I’d like to see myself portrayed.

    I wonder what the purpose of that question is. Do the interviewers just see it as something fun? Or do they think they can glean something about an applicant’s personality? I’m not a fan of weirdly vague personality questions like that, especially ones that require some knowledge of popular culture.

  39. CM*

    Interesting how so many of these are fried-brain moments where you’re so stressed that bizarre things come out of your mouth. (Or don’t, in the cases where somebody is an expert on a subject but immediately forgets everything they know about it.) I have definitely said things in interviews that, even as it’s coming out of my mouth, I’m thinking, “Why am I saying this??” In fact I think that’s a normal interview for me. I just had one where I kept nervously laughing too, which is something I thought I had trained myself out of years ago.

  40. Friendly Comp Manager*

    This makes me feel a LOT better about some of my own embarrassing interview moments!

    My worst one (to me) is when they asked me how I handle stressful situations, and for some reason I said, “Well, I will sometimes cry after work.”

    Like, what?! I still internally cringe when I think about that one!!! Ugh! :)

  41. It’s so academic*

    That totally reminded me of my academic interview. Three days before I get in the plane for the two day marathon of interviews meals and job talk, sudden debilitating back pain. Couldn’t move , couldn’t breathe. A friend gets me an emergency appointment with a dr. I never met. Get a cordezone zone shot in the spine . Fly out the next day. Make it in okay. Get a migraine. No meds are working, nauseous and dizzy in the fine dining restaurant. Fortunately made it through , up all night. Job talk at 8:30 am. Seriously no memory of any of it except dreadful anxiety. I did get the job and realized they gave it to me despite the obvious missteps .

  42. FuzzFrogs*

    Oh god, I was reading this thinking “I don’t have any embarrassing interview stories!” but I 100% do.

    I was interviewing for an org that I had previously been an intern for–with completely different staff. I got so nervous during the interview that I told them about the time that, as an intern, I had hit the building with my car. I have NO idea why I thought that needed to be shared or that it would reflect well on me.

    I did get hired. The manager later said she thought it was funny and reflected well on my honesty.

  43. Phony Genius*

    You know what #10, that salted coffee, you owned it. You showed the hiring manager that you own your mistakes, no matter what. I’d actually consider hiring you based on that alone.

  44. Tortally HareBrained*

    I work at a nature center and we once had a bird fly into the window during an interview. The two people sitting in with me as well as the candidate were startled but able to carry on – I just wanted to run outside and make sure it was okay! After two more flew in during the set of interviews we bought window screens so that no more stunned birds happened in our wildlife friendly building!

    P.S. Like the pigeon above, our birds were fine and flew off.

  45. LGC*

    Information I need immediately:

    – the pen name of the hiring manager for #6. For RESEARCH.

    -the name of the employer in #7, because I think they would love me whether or not I was the father.

    With #5, I’ve heard a lot of cities are mandating their buildings be bird safe nowadays. This is yet another reason for those codes!

  46. sometimeswhy*

    Were it not for some of the small details of #3, I’d think I’d watched that interview from the outside, totally horrified. Rest assured OP3, you are not the only one to ever treat an interview like a day with pals including propping your feet on the table. The Dude In Question that I witnessed was probably worse, he ALSO loosened his tie, unbuttoned his top two buttons, and dropped a LOT of f-bombs.

    It was really something to behold.

    1. Eliza*

      Honestly, when we’re talking about small tech companies in particular, there are places where acting like that would work in your favour rather than against you. Maybe not always places you’d actually want to be hired at, but still…

  47. Quake Johnson*

    #3, if you’re hanging around in the comments, I’d love to know when it dawned on you that your behaviour that day was…unusual. Right after you left? Were you surprised to not get an offer? Not till years later?

    Great story regardless.

    1. Pennalynn Lott*

      Sorry, I started a new job this week, and also dissolved a 17-year primary relationship and business partnership, so I haven’t been on the internet much.

      I don’t know if anyone will come back to see this but it took me a year or so to realize that dressing that far down [this was in the early 90’s when most women still wore pantyhose to the office] and — dear gods — kicking back in the cushy, swivel, conference room chair was not a good idea. I left out the detail that I was actually kind of roll-swinging the chair back and forth, rhythmically, with my feet as the pivot point.

      But after I’d finally gotten a job at an IT consulting company and worked there for a while, and heard horror stories of bad candidates from the owners, I recognized myself in some of what they were describing.

      And, yes, I was genuinely surprised that I didn’t get the offer. I thought we were all great pals and that I was a shoo-in.

  48. frogsandturtles*

    I just kind of bombed an interview a couple of days ago in part due to it being a Skype interview. I was ready for a video chat with 2 or 3 people, but I was not at all prepared to answer the call to see myself looking down from on high — their camera/monitor must have been hanging from the ceiling?? — on a table of 6 people so far away that they looked tiny. I could barely see the faces of the people in the back. It was such a bizarre feeling– like suddenly finding yourself up on stage in front of an audience (probably augmented by the fact that I don’t like heights!) that I could barely register their questions, much less answer them. It was also a first-round interview and the questions were mostly very general — they did not ask me a single question specific to my personal prior work experience, which also threw me off. (I’m guessing that they were asking everyone identical questions for fairness, which is nice, but it sort of made me feel like nobody had bothered to look at my resume) I also was unprepared for a twist on the “tell us your strengths and weaknesses” question — this one was “what is your biggest weakness and how can we support you in that?” My mind went totally blank on the “support” part. I guess I should have said “my weakness is doing Skype interviews while suspended from the ceiling and you could support me by putting my monitor on the table or something.” UGH.

  49. Pam*

    I’ve interviewed interns for my company and I also volunteer at my old university conducting mock interviews.
    -I asked one boy for an example of something that showed leadership skills. He told me about a social event/fundraiser that he was in charge of planning for his club. The answer would’ve been PERFECT. The event was super successful and he did lead prettty much every part on his own. But he described it as a “booze cruise”
    -One boy seemed to have trouble with one STAR question, he sort of stumbled over his words and I had trouble understanding what he was talking about. After a few follow up questions he got frustrated and blurred out “OH MY GOD I AM JUST MAKING THIS ONE UP!!!
    Thankfully these were both mock interviews and I was able to gently let them know at the end during the feedback portion that maybe talking about booze or making up answers (and admitting it to the interviewer) is probably not a great idea. I like the mock interviews better because the students are still new to interviews and I hope the feedback helps them improve for real interviews.

    The very first time I interviewed someone for real I asked him to give me an example of working with someone he didn’t get along with. He went to LOTS OF DETAILS about his freshman roommate’s disgusting bathroom habits and lack of hygiene and how the roommate never cleaned anything. After asking the roommate nicely to please clean the bathroom once in a while or to at least flush the toilet didn’t work, the boy left notes in the bathroom. The roommate responded by drawing pictures of the notes of…..well, I NEVER thought I would hear that word in a job interview…

  50. Ruby*

    My dad recently visited a family member who lives out of state. He (the family member, let’s call him M) ended up having to do a phone interview while my dad was there, so my dad heard his entire side of the conversation. At one point, M was asked if he’d be willing to take a drug test if he were hired. M said that wouldn’t be a problem…and then proceeded to tell a story about how at a previous job, he went out to lunch with a client and had too much to drink, and then ended up having to take a routine drug test later that day (which he either failed or refused to take–I can’t remember which).

    After the interview, my dad made a comment like, “Wow, I was surprised when you told that story about the drug test–that was bold of you!” M was like, “Wait, what story about the drug test?” My dad recounted the story he’d just overheard. M was horrified. I guess the story had just sort of popped out, and he hadn’t realized how bad it sounded until my dad pointed it out to him!

    The even bigger surprise was that he got the job.

  51. Kathenus*

    I still have a strong childhood memory of being at Disney World with my grandparents. Instead of sugar packets, my grandfather accidentally used ketchup packets for his coffee. A proud and stubborn man he insisted he did it on purpose and drank it all. Became the stuff of family legend for decades.

  52. AnonyLawyer*

    #10: Even though I knew to expect that you would be the “salt in coffee” story, I must admit that upon reading, I had the greatest, longest LOL I’ve experienced in quite a while. Thank you!

  53. Re: salt in coffee*

    Sometimes when you throw up, things taste salty. I’m not a scientist at all so I have no idea why, but it has happened to me. My bet is that you put in sugar!

  54. E C Barry*

    #3. “I know he won’t pick up the slack, use the software, and set up an appointment — and it’s important for my team that we have a discussion. Any suggestions?”

    When YOU feel like you need to have a meeting, schedule the meeting. If HE says “We need to have a meeting.” Say “Sure, schedule it anytime.” …and then forget about it. Do you see the difference there? You are annoyed that He won’t schedule a meeting that He wants to have. Why? Where is the impulse to solve His problem coming from? Unless you need to meet, don’t worry about it.

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