the loose cannon job candidate, the interview from a toilet, and other tales of interview mishaps

A while back, I asked readers to share the weirdest or worst behavior they’ve ever seen from job candidates. Over at Inc. today, I’ve got 10 of my favorites — including a job candidates who described himself as “a loose cannon,” a wife blamer, someone interviewing from the toilet, and someone who touted his celibacy as an achievement.

You can read the whole list here.

{ 493 comments… read them below }

  1. Slow Gin Lizz*

    I love #5 because it’s a really clever way of weeding out the people who just upload their resumes willy-nilly and don’t actually read the job description. It’s kind of like my easter egg on my dating profile where I say “if you call me beautiful before we meet I find that kind of creepy,” which means I can weed out the guys who don’t read my profile (because I still get a lot of “hello, your [sic] beautiful” messages, sigh).

      1. Miss Muffet*

        It would def do it for me! I would LOVE to have a grammar screening like that (fortunately, I married a good writer 20 years ago – but I’ve often told him it would have been a dealbreaker!)

    1. Cedarthea*

      I run a camp so lots of our titles have “Director” in them, like Waterfront Director, Program Director, Assistant Director, and the number of people who just auto apply through Indeed for anything they think are a leadership position would astound you.

      1. mommy shark*

        We got 400+ applications for a VP of Operations role. There were not close to 400 qualified candidates.

        1. BlueBell*

          Heck, I got tons of applications for an entry level role that weren’t qualified. I wasn’t even requiring a college degree, just tell me what you want this job. Nope, an astonishingly large number couldn’t even do that. For a fundraising support role, maybe don’t tell me know excited you are to apply to the organization because you really want to put your natural resources degree to use and can’t wait to get out in the field and do tree surveys.

          We’ve stopped using Indeed, it’s just not worth the hassle of wading through the mountain of rejects to find one or two good applicants.

    2. MassMatt*

      Wow, gross that you are getting this so often. And, IMO it’s still very creepy AFTER they meet you!

    3. starsaphire*

      Yep! I never reply to the “hello beautiful” dudes either.

      I mean, it’s GREAT that you think that pic of my dog is beautiful, but… *shrug*

      1. many bells down*

        I often get messages wherever online I have a photo about my “beautiful smile.” I am rarely smiling in any of the pictures they’re commenting on.

      2. KateM*

        They are really just trying to get a date with your dog through you, don’t they.

    4. Eliza*

      I don’t think your profile needs to say that for you to weed out all those men. Ick.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        It’s just a bonus way for me to figure out who *really* didn’t read my profile. :-)

        1. voluptuousfire*

          I stuck a youtube link in my online dating profile years ago and said I would block any gentleman who didn’t mention this link in my profile to see who was paying attention. I think out of the messages I received, one guy actually mentioned it.

    5. Rav*

      I call those brown M&Ms, after the Van Halen incident. I have used for a proposal at work (funny enough, I listed making coffee one of the higher positions’ duties). Immediately knew when someone read it, because it was the first question they asked.

    6. Gerry L*

      Yes. #5 was clever, but it brought back memories. I travel cross country each year to volunteer at an ape sanctuary. Before the trip one year I said I hope they had plenty of work to keep me busy and was told, “Oh, yes, there is lots of filing to be done.”

      Great. Office work in an air conditioned space. And I’m very good at filing. Turns out that the “filing” was the other kind. They had me filing sharp edges off of steel mesh that were going to be used to build more housing for the apes. Hours outside. Heat and humidity.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        Oh no, that isn’t what ANYONE would expect when thy heard “filing”. The volunteering sounds great though!

    7. Nope, not today*

      I am certain the only reason my boyfriend and I are even together is because his first message to me on a dating app was to ask what sort of dog I have – I mentioned, a paragraph into my profile, that I had a dog. He actually READ it, and – bonus – actually STARTED A CONVERSATION, rather than just a random hello that I never knew how to respond to!

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        OMG, he’s a keeper!!! But seriously, WHY is it so hard for guys to figure out that starting a conversation is the way to…you know…start a conversation??? I suppose it’s because so many of them are just looking for sex and so why bother with the conversation. But I sure wish those guys would just leave me alone.

    8. OkapiFeels*

      My weed-out method for online dating was to add a sentence at the top that said, “If your first message to me is sexual innuendo, I’m just going to laugh at you.” Made it easy to weed out both the people who opened with innuendo, and the people who opened with some variation of, “How dare you laugh at me??”

  2. Madame X*

    for the one labelled “5. Not interested” I wonder how many of those rejected candidates thought they were more than qualified for the positioned and then were surprised to find out they did not even make it to the interview stage.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Yes, those must be some literal thinkers …”they asked if I was INTERESTED, and no one is interested in filing but I can still do it.”

      1. Jam Today*

        But then the trap is, if you do say you’re interested in filing, the interviewer is going to ask “So tell me, what do you find interesting about filing?”

        Nobody is interested in filing. Applicants know that. Interviewers know that. Its a dance that both sides play. Just cut out the BS and say “Can you file? Will you file for $n/hour?” and people will either say yes or no.

        1. fposte*

          I really like filing, though. I don’t think I’m alone. There’s an organizational satisfaction in it. That doesn’t mean I’d thrill to it 40 hours a week, but better start with me than with somebody who dislikes it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right! “I like the satisfaction of knowing everything is organized and in its place and will be easily findable in the future” is a perfectly fine answer (and would be true for me).

            1. Empress Matilda*

              I’ve literally based my career on that exact premise! I’m at the point now where I manage the people who write the policies that the file clerks have to follow – but it all still comes down to making sure everything is organized and in its place and will be easily findable in the future.

          2. hbc*

            Everyone else who volunteered at the school library was there to interact with their kids, which, sure, I enjoyed. But I really loved getting at the shelves and putting all the Magic Tree House books back in order and such, and I’ll still sneak over and do it if I’m waiting for a parent/teacher conference.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            Same. It’s not that I think it’s inherently fun but it’s tidy and I love knowing that stuff is in place and discoverable. Which is why I’m an archives assistant–this job is like 90% filing, basically.

          4. Lacey*

            Yeah, I find it soothing. I’m in a graphic designer, so people always find it surprising that if I couldn’t do something in my field I’d want to do filing or data entry. One of my early jobs was organizing a customer data base and I loved it!

            1. Chalice from the Palace*

              Same! Graphic design is basically visual organization & puzzle solving. Filing can be similarly satisfying.

            2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              Funny thing is I’m also a graphic designer, and I loathe paper filing. My electronic files are clean and organized, and I like organization in general, but still think paper filing is archaic and needless; keep a PDF (if necessary) and throw it all out.

              1. DiplomaJill*

                I love prepress work sometimes… Organizing and consolidating all of the styles and colors and layouts, and cleaning up the file… Give me something good to listen to and multipage layout in need of clean up once every few weeks, oh yeah baby

          5. Tib*

            The vendor files were my oasis of calm in a job and office filled with unavoidable chaos. I found their order comforting and was always willing to spend the extra time keeping them that way.

            My tax filing system is the perfect intersection of order and laziness and I smile every time I access them.

          6. Clisby*

            Yeah! I like shredding documents. I get into this kind of zen thing with the noise from the shredder, and the shreds falling into the container, and dumping it on my garden for mulch, and …

            When I was going through graduate school, I signed up for an office temp agency, and took a number of very short-term admin-type jobs. They weren’t “interesting” in the sense that I got a lot of intellectual stimulation from them, but I absolutely didn’t dislike them. I find it “interesting” that I can earn money doing something that leaves me plenty of brain space to think about what I really want to think about.

          7. Mental Lentil*

            You’re not alone. I really hate it when things aren’t organized. It will literally keep me from sleeping.

          8. TiffIf*

            YES! I get really annoyed at things that are miscategorized or misplaced.

            Previous job, I actually would use the slow/downtime to go down and organize the storage room. This was a small independent photography studio so there were DECADES of negatives in the storage room that were haphazardly labelled and heaven help us if someone wanted reprints from their wedding twenty years ago because it might be in the box for the right year or it might not be.

        2. Secret Identity*

          “So tell me, what do you find interesting about filing?”
          “Well, really, I greatly enjoy filing personnel files. The interesting part is reading about all the shady shit my coworkers tried to pull and got caught.”

          1. Golden*

            This was 100% my first job! The folder on a previous employee who murdered people while on company-sponsored sabbatical was a wild ride.

              1. Golden*

                It was several years ago, so I don’t remember all the details unfortunately! But basically, the person had a file full of disciplinary issues (including purposefully ‘farting on’ a junior staff member) and went on sabbatical where they killed a romantic partner and another person. I think they were able to plead the charge down, but were (rightfully) fired by the company over it.

                1. SunriseRuby*

                  Have mercy. Moving from farting on another employee to murder. I can only imagine what this guy did in between the minor offense and the major crime, but I’ll bet his behavior was all over the “Dregs of Humanity” spectrum.

          2. Elitist Semicolon*

            The summer after I told my first graduate program that I would not be continuing for their Ph.D., I worked in the university’s archives, where one of my main tasks was moving file boxes. I accidentally dropped one and discovered it contained promotion and tenure portfolios, including some for the faculty I’d just left behind. Best reading e v e r.

            1. KayEss*

              I worked in the IT department of a university for a while and was once tasked with sorting through a box of archival photos and documents… included was a sheet of handwritten notes on the best ways to court a prominent donor to sponsor construction of a new building, such as by offering his wife a music fellowship. The building did get built with his name on it (and was actually in the process of being torn down for new construction by the time I was working there… the documents were decades old) so I guess they were successful, but it was a pretty wild look at the mercenary side of that kind of relationship.

            2. Artemesia*

              When I became department chair I could not resist reading my own file — obviously unethical move, but I digress. During the hiring process in a departmental meeting of candidate/department, one member had asked me if I planned to have more children. (I had a two year old son). Offended but not wanting to say this — it was the 70s — I said ‘That is between me, my husband and my God.’ In my file I found that one member had voted to hire me over the close competitor because of my ‘deep religious faith’ — go figure.

        3. SomebodyElse*

          I don’t know, I do sometimes dream of my retirement job. Filing could be on that list. There’s a zen like something you can get out of what some people consider mundane jobs. I love them! Would I get bored, probably some days, but I think on the whole I could dig a job like this when I decide to step off the corporate ladder.

          I worked as a cashier as a student and about once a year I would be assigned sorting and filing for weeks on end. Loved it!

          I also enjoy data entry, pulling carpet staples, and unraveling impossibly knotted yarn.

        4. AnonForOnce*

          I once applied for a job at an audiovisual contracting firm in which the screen included the question “on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you love conference rooms?”

          I really wonder what the median answer they get is.

          1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            Your screen question makes me laugh even more than the interested/not interested question! Did it allow for nuance: 1.5 when they are full of people, but a solid 8 when they are empty.

            My recently retired boss told the story of working for a well-known hotel chain as their audiovisual tech guy when he was a young man. He apparently loved conference rooms…they were left at the end with untouched freshly-baked cookies, and he was allowed to help himself since they were just going to be trashed.

        5. LizM*

          I don’t file for fun, but I am interested in filing for $X/hr. I would assume that’s the premise of the question.

          At the beginning of my career, I applied for a job working in a government office. Most of the job was filing (there was some basic data entry). I knew I didn’t want to do that job for the rest of my life, but I was thinking about law school, and being a lawyer in government means a lot of records management. Keeping good records means that your agency can be transparent and you can show how you’re following the law.

          I hire entry level admin people all the time now. If I’m reviewing even several dozen candidates, and some of them can’t even bring themselves to check a box that they’re interested in the main duty of the job, I’m going to start with the candidates who are. That’s how hiring works.

          If I’m given a choice between two otherwise equal candidates, and candidate one says, “I’m not interested in filing but I need a job” and candidate two says “I’m interested in administrative work and I understand this is the first step in that” I’m going with the second candidate.

      2. Baska*

        The point is that the job was for a file clerk. If you’re not interested in filing, file clerk is not the job for you!

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Not everyone is able to get a passion-driven job or even wants one. For some people being able to pay their bills is paramount. For others, they may not want to be a file clerk forever, but they need their foot in the door to get promoted internally to the job they really want. And if the person wants a job, can do that job well, and is willing to do it for the wage offered, I don’t see why it should matter if they actually like what they do. I doubt every person that cleans floors or files documents or picks strawberries is in love with those things! They still deserve a shot at being hired!

          I used to work retail and fast food jobs. I hated them. But I was good at it and I needed the money. Should I have remained unemployed instead?

          1. Clisby*

            No. You should have restrained yourself from stating that you weren’t interested in the job. Apparently you were able to do that.

          2. purpler*

            You are taking this too literally. If you are not willing to file all day, don’t apply for the filing job. OP clearly had lots of applicants who weren’t willing to file all day, hence the question. This question was not asked AT you.

          3. Washi*

            This is absurdly literal. If you would like to be offered the position of file clerk, then yes, you are interested in filing, because you would like to file in exchange for money. The question was not “is file clerk your dream job?”

            I’m guessing 99% of people who said they were not interested did so because they were not paying any attention to what they were applying for, not because they genuinely had no idea what the best response would be. If you get 400 applicants, seems like a fine way to weed people out for a job that requires attention to detail!

          4. Conner*

            Glue don’t get a shot over people who are interested and motivated, no. That’s not how hiring works.

            If you are applying for a job with one duty, don’t say you aren’t interested in that duty. It’s just common sense. If you can’t figure that much out, I don’t want you working for me. I don’t have time to hold the hand of idiots like that!

          5. meyer lemon*

            So if you were hiring for this position, how would you propose giving a shot to 600 people, some of whom don’t even have a basic interest in the one responsibility of the job?

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              This is kind of where I am. What sort of existential question (or rating scale) should be used to take the first cut through all those resumes. More choices? “How do you feel about filing? (Interested, Could Be Paid to Be Interested, Indifferent, Not Interested, So Uninterested I’d Complaint to You Every Day I Work There, Actively Hate Filing)

              I mean, when you have 600 applicants, you can afford to take someone who’s interested enough to pick “interested”. It’s not like it asks if you’re “passionate” about filing and or expects you to write a haiku honoring reverse chronological order.

              1. armchairexpert*

                How about “Here are five possible emotions you may have about filing. Order them alphabetically”.

          6. biobotb*

            But the applicants *had* a shot at the job (otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to apply for it) — and then indicated they weren’t interested in *doing* it. Why should their applications be prioritized as highly as applications from people who will go on record as being actually interested in doing the job if hired?

          7. Elizabeth West*

            I’m grimacing at “get promoted internally” from a file clerk job. Once you’re in the admin pool, it is very very very hard to get out.

            1. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

              When I found this blog a few years ago, I devoured the archives. I’d read your comments and think, “I bet I’d like Elizabeth West.” I’m happy to see you here and hope you are doing well.

    2. Quickbeam*

      I just love that one the most. Job=filing. One question. Not interested. There is sort of a beauty to the self elimination aspect of it.

    3. Koalafied*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them were from unemployed people who have to show they applied to a certain number of jobs per week under their state laws. For someone who is in a niche field with less frequent job openings, where they could probably find a job in 3-4 months but have to apply for multiple jobs per week and have to accept any “suitable” offer if they get one, one way to ensure you don’t get offered a job you had to apply to but have no interest in actually working, is to apply for stuff wildly outside your qualifications and attach a crappy cover letter.

      1. selena*

        ‘applying to X number of jobs’ makes sense as a personal goal
        (i am unemployed rn and i make it a point to apply at least once a week because i know myself and that i have a tendency to not apply to anything while i wait for *the perfect job*)

        it makes no sense to force any hard limit onto anyone else, because it’s extremely easy to secretly sabotage your own jobsearch.
        So rules like that just mean local companies get flooded with applications from people who have absolutely no desire of really working there.

    4. FrenchCusser*

      I would have answered ‘not interested’, too, because I hate, hate, hate filing.

      And yet, one of the best jobs I had while putting myself through college was as a file clerk at a collection agency. I learned SO MUCH about human nature. I call it ‘my best worst job’.

  3. ToBe(late) or NotToBe(late)*

    I think my oddest one was a candidate who I was hiring as a supervisor to my warehouse staff. I tended to ask a lot more ‘soft’ questions, because my staff was shall we say ‘eclectic’ and this person would have to supervise them. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part they were all hard workers but they could be a handful.

    Anyway, I asked this person if they had any hot buttons when it came to their staff or as a supervisor… the guy went off on a rant about lateness and how disrespectful it was and how he wouldn’t tolerate it… blah blah blah. It was quite umm over the top.

    I decided to switch topics because he had worked himself up a bit so I asked why he was leaving/had left his last position… “Oh, I was fired for being late too many times… it was totally unfair”

    I blinked and waited for the “oh just kidding” but no, he was dead serious between the two answers he had just given me. I wrapped that one up right quick. (And as a bonus he started to call me daily to find out if he’d gotten the job)

    1. Cat Tree*

      Ooh, that’s a good one! I hope this becomes a thread where everyone shares these stories.

      I’ve only been on the interviewer side a handful of times so my story isn’t very juicy. At my company, we ask behavioral interview questions so I asked a candidate about a time he approached an assignment that was completely new to him. This was for a senior level individual contributor role so he had plenty of experience to draw from, but I’d honestly accept a hypothetical answer if he truly couldn’t think of anything. Instead, he got visibly annoyed at me for asking, and literally said, “Don’t worry; I would figure it out”. I made several attempts to get an answer but he just shut the whole thing down. Buddy, it’s literally my job to “worry” about this so I can evaluate how you would perform in this role, and that question was the most important for the specific role I was interviewing for. Also, it’s one thing to get flustered during an interview if you can’t think of an example on the spot, but getting visibly annoyed at the person asking you is not a good look.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “Don’t worry; I would figure it out” is possibly the most ridiculous interview answer I’ve ever heard, but I also love it.

        1. Artemesia*

          With a little tweaking ‘figure it out’ can work. As in, ‘I don’t know that particular program but I have quickly come up to speed on X, Y, Z programs and am confidence I could figure it out and get up to speed quickly for you on it. ‘

          1. Violette*

            For software programs that I’ve never used before I have told interviewers, “I’ve never met an application I couldn’t master.”

            BUT I also follow that up with *how* I have mastered past new-to-me software programs, none of which involved formal training.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              I can point to my CV and references if they ask how good I am at picking up and supporting unfamiliar software (answer: It’s kinda my key skill) but I’m very fond of my husband unit’s way of pointing it out (he’s a software tester):

              “There’s never been a bit of software that I can’t break, and she can’t fix”

          2. OyHiOh*

            I have a friend who is now a few years into a job whose basic tasks they were familiar with, but in a new industry. I like the way they start the answer to questions in the new industry: “I am confident of my ability to learn. [followed by some of the ways they might learn the new thing + an example of how they’ve succeeded at learning then completing a new task in the past.] “

          3. Cat Tree*

            I didn’t ask about any specific task or program. I just wanted any example of how he would approach a task that he had not done before. This is a high level SME position and a big part of it is fielding requests from anywhere in the company so problem solving is far more important than already knowing.

            I gave him multiple chances to expand his answer, by asking him to elaborate in several different ways. He just kept refusing. Honestly, I would even accept something like “I would ask my manager”. It’s not the strongest answer, but it’s better than just not answering.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Reminds me of story where someone was complaining about interview where they were asked, and hand held a bit, about what would you do if didn’t know, and no-one was around – they were upset that they finally (semi-sarcastically) said “well if all else failed, I guess I’d google it!” and interviewer seemed satisfied.

              Yes! Google it *is* the answer! (Or stack exchange. Bonus points for saying you’ve done it before )

          4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            “Figure it out” can totally work. You just have to give me an example of how you’ve figured it out in the past, not brush me off with “don’t worry about it.”

        2. Old Cynic*

          Not crazy about the “don’t worry” part, but expanding a little on the “figure it out” part would work for me.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              That sort of thing always drives me a little nuts – if they don’t answer the question I asked, I always prompt/clarify what I’m looking for. This candidate would have gotten a hard no from me for not being able to answer after multiple attempts, too.

            2. MassMatt*

              …he certainly isn’t figuring out how to answer the interview question, is he?!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My former boss was still recovering from “trauma” caused by an employee who always said, “don’t worry about it”. She learned that actually meant “worry harder”.

            Fortunately, I tend not to use that expression. I drift toward specific explanations that in turn lighten concerns. This meant she hired me and kept me. I think if I had said, “don’t worry” I would have been out the door.

        3. meyer lemon*

          Me too. Has this man never interviewed before? Does he not understand what an interview is meant to do? This is wild to me.

      2. Artemesia*

        Behavioral questions are absolutely the gold standard. You find out quickly who you are dealing with. I always advised students to go into job interviews having thought through a few scenarios from their past experience that address things like, dealing with a difficult co-worker, solving a work problem, taking initiative, an accomplishment etc — so they had some material to work with as it is sometimes hard to come up with things on the fly when you are nervous and new at it.

        I remember a guy on the phone screen for a job that involved teaching org theory and asking ‘what theorists would you want to be sure to include in your course’ and he couldn’t name one and actually said ‘I didn’t know there would be a test so I didn’t prepare for that.’ He had a PhD. Hard to imagine that he couldn’t name some theorist from all his studies he could talk about — heck he could have picked Dostoevsky or something and explained how the Brothers Karamazov offers unusual insights into managing in an org. if he blanked on standard org theorists.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Grad school is a couple decades in the past for me, & I am not in academia. I could still name theorists in my field.

        2. LDF*

          So true! What’s amazing is when people don’t say “I don’t know” but they just confidently give an answer that is so bad. Like I’ve asked “how have you handled having to work with someone with a different communication style” and been told, paraphrased, “well it hasn’t happened, but if it did, I would keep communicating in the way that worked for me”. Like… ???? Not gonna hire them but I’m glad for the honesty, hah.

      3. JillianNicola*

        When I was a team lead at a certain big box retail store that really likes the color red, we also did behavioral questions. My first litmus test for people was, I would clearly explain that for each question I wanted three things: what the situation was, the actions you took, and the outcome of the situation. First question, if they tried to give me a vague or incomplete answer I would reiterate the specifics I was looking for, and give them a chance to course correct (since I know first hand interviews can be nerve wracking). After that, if they still couldn’t give me complete answers I wouldn’t put them through to the next round. Right off the bat I know you’re not going to follow directions, which is vital to retail work.

        One of the interviews that sticks out to me – we were hiring for a beauty specialist position. It says in the job listing that we’re looking for people with a passion for beauty, so usually when I asked why they were interested in the position, candidates would talk about how much they loved the beauty industry, fave brands/products, fave YouTube channels, etc etc. This one girl, when asked, said “well I saw the listing on Indeed and I thought why not.” No further reasoning even with gentle prompting. She did not get a second interview.

      4. FrenchCusser*

        We were interviewing for an entry level position, and one of our interviewees had been VP at a major bank, so HIGHLY overqualified, but boy, was she a bad interview.

        Our HR person met with us before the interview and apprised us on all the things we couldn’t ask (age, sexual orientation, marital status, etc.), but this person managed to tell us all of it, and more, slyly working it into her answers.

        But the best one was when we asked her how she had handled a conflict with a coworker, and her answer was, ‘I’ve never had one. Everyone likes me!’

        No, she did not get the job.

    2. EmbracesTrees*

      I’m in academia and we were doing a search for a faculty position for a field that requires very careful language and skilled interaction with the public. A person we interviewed 1) trashed former colleagues at a peer institution (some of whom we knew but even if not…) and 2) made barely veiled derogatory (read: racist) comments about a part of the city where one of the campuses was located.

      And, of course, followed up with me (as the cmte chair) to ask why they weren’t forwarded for a follow-up interview. smh

      1. oes*

        Also in academia. I can’t remember what question I asked, but the candidate’s reply was, “well I could strangle you with your scarf, but I’m not going to.”

        Fortunately, this was not a 1-on-1 interview.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*


          NO. That’s not even funny in hindsight. I’m sorry that happened.

        2. selena*

          It seems to be a thing with people from certain ages and backgrounds: they grew up with the idea that casual mentions of violence (murder, suicide) are part of a normal conversation, as an exclamation point to signal mild frustration.
          Most of them eventually grew out of it when they realized it makes them look very aggressive and it makes everyone else reaaaally uncomfortable.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Not super weird, but — the candidate who, when asked to talk about a time they made a mistake at work, stated: I don’t make mistakes.

      Haha, yeah, but seriously, can you give an example…No, I can’t, because I don’t make mistakes.

      Committee members are looking at each other sideways and shifting in their seats. I try again. Well, I think we all make mistakes; we’re human! I make mistakes for sure (other committee members pipe up, Me too! Yep, I do!). Candidate just smiles and says, I don’t make mistakes.

      Otherwise a fantastic candidate. We recommended that the hiring officer probe this area really hard when doing the reference calls.

      Candidate was hired…excellent hire. But they have made a few mistakes…it takes every ounce of self-control I have not to pounce on them…

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Curiosity is getting me. Did the references say that she does not make mistakes?

      2. Sparrow*

        Wow, she could’ve at least told you about the work processes she’d developed and how/why they make her so confident that she won’t make mistakes…? There are pretty much no interview questions you can answer properly in one sentence, and I’m confused by people who think that’s all they need.

      3. WS*

        I once had a mentor (in a high pressure healthcare field) where her response to “how to deal with mistakes” was “don’t make mistakes”. And, honestly, in the 8 years I worked with her, she either never made a mistake or she was *extremely* good at covering them up.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Wow! I used to outsource sworn translators at the agency, because none of the in-house translators had the necessary stamp. I would proofread their translation and ask them to correct any mistakes before they sent their translation to us. One translator refused to make any changes, saying he’d already sent in his translation and didn’t have time to print and stamp it again. But it didn’t matter because his translations were always perfect. Um, yes, sure, except did you see at the bottom of page 2, there’s a sentence where the word “not” is missing?
        (he hung up on me and refused to ever work with me again. Last time I heard, he’s now the cheapest translator on the market…)

      5. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I couldn’t hire someone who’d never made a mistake, because that means they’ve never learnt how to fix a mistake.

        (I once b0rked 35,000 desktop computers with an untested AD change. My word did I learn from that)

      6. Rusty Shackelford*

        Not a job interview, but I had to interact with some people in a medical profession as SMEs, and the topic of mistakes came up. Most of the people in the group said they had no experience, as they’d never made a mistake. One person explained how she handled mistakes. Guess who I’d go to if I needed that kind of professional? Spoiler alert: It’s NOT the ones who think they’ve never made a mistake.

      7. Anon Supervisor*

        I always ask a question about a time they received negative feedback and how they handled it. I’ve had a couple people answer that they’ve never received negative feedback because they never make mistakes. Big red flag.

    4. LunaLena*

      Maybe not super weird, but one interview that always stood out to me was a video interview a few years ago. It was a scheduled interview, so we were a bit surprised when the candidate answered while clearly in her car and wearing sweats (she did mention that she had pulled over to the side of the road; we could hear traffic going by). Okay, life happens, and she did have a reasonable explanation. But she also had her camera pointed at her mouth. Literally all we could see were her teeth and her sweater. We pointed this out several times and asked if she could reposition it, but she never did, so that was all we saw for the entire interview. The position was for a senior communications director role. She did not move on to the next stage.

    5. Fake Eleanor*

      I was interviewing people for a role teaching computer coding at schools. I had a series of behavioral questions to see how the interviewee handled classroom management issues. One of them was how the candidate would handle it if a kid hit another kid or hit the equipment. I intentionally set up the scenario where the students were second graders so there would be no mistaking this for an actual violent/dangerous situation.
      One man answered immediately: “I would call the police. Violence is unacceptable.” Needless to say, I did not put him in a classroom.

      1. Self Employed*

        Thank you–that happens way too much in schools these days that have police stationed on campus. They’re supposed to be protecting the students from the scary people in the neighborhood but instead they’re putting handcuffs on kids having a bad day and acting out.

    6. Midwest Manager*

      This reminds me of the time I had 2 candidates in the same pool do completely different odd things:

      1) Young kid, only work history was for his father’s professional business. All answers were one-phrase responses: “Yeah, I’ve done that.” “Yeah, I can do that if I need to.” “No, I have no experience with that.” The planned 45-min interview took 12 minutes. I asked if the candidate had anything else to share with the hiring committee: “Well, I guess I could say I’m a procrastinator.” Um… Okay. Thanks for coming in.

      2) Older lady with decent and relevant work history. In a conference room designed for 20 people, there were 4 total people in the room. She insisted on sitting in the chair next to me, turned slightly toward me so that our knees were nearly touching. I suggested that she sit a bit further away and she declined to move (I had nowhere else to move to discreetly.) Then the interview ran 30 min over because EVERYTHING was a highly detailed story with no point (often off-topic). She talked with her hands very expressively, a couple times nearly making a connection with my head/face/body. She was not hired.

  4. hindsight candidate*

    I went through the whole article and now feel so much more better about all my past job interviews, include the only fresh out of school where the director had to tell me that she could hear my voice shaking, can I please calm down. LOL

    1. Raven*

      Oof! That would be embarrassing. But I can’t imagine that her calling you out like that would actually make you calm down lol

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Although that phrase might make you angry enough to still your nerves.

    2. Happy Pineapple*

      My worst experience during an interview was for a position as clerical staff at a public university, very similar to what I was already doing. I dressed a step up from my normal everyday look: simple jewelry and makeup, hair done, silk blouse, linen trousers, leather flats, and a tailored cardigan. Also worth noting that this was the middle of summer and nearly 100 degrees outside.

      After more than two hours of interviewing and assessments, the head interviewer, who was the only one wearing an impeccable full suit, looked me up and down like Miranda Priestly and said disdainfully, “For this role we expect someone to dress professionally.” I felt about two inches tall!

    3. Foxgloves*

      I was called out on that multiple times when I was new to the workforce. “We can tell you’re really nervous Foxgloves, just take a moment, take a breath, have a sip of water, and then we’ll carry on” worked- telling me to “calm down” would NOT have!

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Right? I like to think I would have ended the interview then and there. But on the other hand, if OP had done that, the candidate wouldn’t have had the chance to call the majority owner “honey,” and we probably would have missed out on this glorious letter.

      1. Van Wilder*

        I wish I know how he was rejected. I think I would have sent one of the other “big boys” out to say “Sorry, the rest of your interview is cancelled because you just insulted our majority owner. She recommended you go straight to the airport and head home before she has someone cancel your flight.”

        1. Cat Tree*

          In my French vanilla fantasy, he walks into the conference room for the meeting with the “big boys”, sees that owner on the panel and realizes his horrible mistake, then just immediately and sheepishly turns around and walks back out the door never to be heard from again.

          1. Roja*

            I suspect it probably happened like that, at least like the first half. So much cringe.

          2. BadWolf*

            This dude would be equally likely to say, “Oh good, someone to get me a coffee. Thanks, Sugar.”

            1. Mm*

              Yep! Far more likely that he would try to fit his preconceived notions into what he was seeing – assume she is there to take notes or get coffee.

              It’s also crazy because this was a sales position. Sexism aside (I know a big aside) if you can’t make small talk because you are about the meet with the big boys then you are in the wrong field.

              1. LCH*

                he actually sounds exactly like the traveling sales position on The Office. he was terrible.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              You are right, I tried picturing him shriveling up from embarrassment and crawling away. But that’s not what happened. He has decided that he dodged a bullet because he almost ended up working for a bunch of losers- this is more likely what happened in the end.
              People like this can justify anything at any time.

        2. BadWolf*

          I love the idea that he’d be in a race to check in against the whim of the cancelled ticket…

        3. Violette*

          Would be even better if the majority owner said it. “The rest of your interview is cancelled because you just insulted the person you thought was a receptionist.”

          1. Lurker*

            I get your point, but even if he would have insulted the receptionist, that’s not okay either.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*


              “The rest of your interview is cancelled because you just insulted the receptionist.”

              When we interviewed, we’d often walk them out, shake hands, let them know next stages and as soon as they’d left, turn to reseptionist and ask “what did you think?”.

  5. Ashley*

    Did number 10 recently apply to the seminary and accidentally leave that tidbit from his seminary cover letter, because otherwise why would you ever mention it in your life outside of some personal counseling session of some type?

    1. Ama*

      I once had someone spend two pages (the cover letter was 5 pages total) telling a story about a friend of theirs who left a corporate law career for teaching, which he found more fulfilling. It was supposed to explain why the letter writer was applying for our nonprofit position after a career spent in for profit but still, two whole pages about someone who was not the candidate (and our nonprofit had nothing to do with education, either so the whole anecdote literally boiled down to “my friend left the for profit world for a lower paying job and is happy so I think I might be, too.”)

      The kicker was this particular position was going to require a lot of writing and the ability to state complicated concepts clearly and concisely (I believe we may have even used that phrasing in the job description). Needless to say they did not get an interview.

      1. hbc*

        I’ll never forget the sales guy who blabbed for a good seven minutes at the question of “So how’d it go with [previous interviewer]?” I could see the impatience just radiating from my coworker from the corner of my eye by minute two–body language, facial expression, everything was screaming “Shut up!” And then in response to the next question, Dude told us that one of his greatest assets was his ability to read people.

        1. Sparrow*

          Ha, this reminded me of a phone screen where the candidate was droning on and on in a very flat monotone. At the end of the call, she unironically says, “I’m sure you can tell by the tone of my voice that I am very passionate about…” and my coworker had to swiftly hit mute on our end so the candidate wouldn’t hear us cracking up.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I used to work in the admissions dept for a college that had your normal programs, but also had more “vo-tech” style programs as well. The “vo-tech” side didn’t ask for a full admissions packet, as the bulk of their students weren’t the school is my jam type, so they wanted: high school transcripts/ged certificate, completed application, criminal disclosure (mostly to keep bad idea combinations apart like illegal pron and photography students apart), and a short essay on what do you hope to get from completing the program (to make sure you understood what you were applying for, and that your expectations were in the realm of reasonable). I will never forget the application essay that was a “dialogue between two poltergeists” about why Stan (name changed to protect the ignorant) should be admitted to the baking program.

        (For the record Stan rewrote the essay and was accepted on try two.)

        1. Jack McKinney*

          If Stan had penned a conversation between two croissants, would he have gotten in on the first try?

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Jack ~ Really couldn’t tell you that answer – it was the only dialogue application essay I saw in 2 1/2 years at that job. Most of the app essays I saw were about two paragraphs long. Stan’s first one was six pages of dialogue.

            Not so New~ it’s been almost 10 years since that job, so I can’t remember what they had done. I do remember in coming in around Halloween. The length and poltergeist stuck with me because it was just soo out there compared to what normally got turned in.

            That essay was also how we figured out that the counselor he was working with wasn’t reading essays before sending them to be bundled with transcripts for final admission decisions. A “chat” was had with them about that little point.

  6. Properlike*

    #9. Saw it coming, helpless to stop it, loved that the villain got his comeuppance in the end. Would watch again.

      1. Jess*

        Someday I’ll find myself in one of these stories for the interview where I was asked, “What’s your superpower?” I’m still not sure what they were looking for, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, “Well, my fingernails grow really fast.”

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          To be fair, i think that question would throw many people for a loop if they had to answer on the spot. I have skills and knowledge, but no superhuman ones.

          1. Artemesia*

            My 3 year old grandson was nattering on in the car as I drove him home last night and mentioned he had superpowers. I asked what they were (hoping it wasn’t flying as I life in a 33 story building). He said ‘I have the supermarket to make really scary things not seem so scary.’ Would that we all had this superpower.

            1. Artemesia*

              fingers with a life of their own – obviously ‘live’ in the building and have the ‘superpower’

    1. DollarStoreParty*

      Kind of want to see the sequel though where he finds out the “honey” behind the desk was the major shareholder, and that he did not get the job.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          That’s good. Because he absolutely should have been rejected for being that rude to *anyone* on staff, even if they weren’t the owner.

        2. Absurda*

          Thanks for this! I love the idea of letting him sweat a bit and pointing out that it didn’t matter that he didn’t know who she was; it would have been unacceptable regardless of how much power the woman had.

  7. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I’m going to give the toilet guy the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t USING the toilet during the interview, and instead assume he’s interviewing at his current job and thinks the only place to have a “private” conversation is in the toilet….please…because I need to believe this.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Nope. I was recently in a meeting where the moderator finally had to say, “I’m sorry but is someone actively on the toilet?!! Please get off the call now.” Bro was literally grunting and struggling on an un-muted line. We could hear the splash. Moderator tried so many times to help politely before finally just saying it. It was horrifying.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I wish we could use emojis or GIFs on this site because words alone can not adequately convey my horror.

      2. hayling*

        Have we had a “Worst Zoom meeting behavior” post? This would definitely qualify!

      3. CupcakeCounter*

        This was my nightmare a few months back. I had a ton of back to back Teams meetings (thankfully no video) and my stomach was NOT OKAY that day. It was awful but I used headphones and tested my mute often to make sure it was working properly. I think the anxiety made my digestive issues worse but I was so miserable.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Let me add to your nightmare fuel, then: I’ve had an issue with Teams where I muted my microphone, it *said* I was muted…but people could hear me. Happened about 3 weeks ago. Two days later, one of my colleagues had the same issue, except her CAMERA was on when it said it was not.


      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m terribly immature because I’d be laughing my posterior off if I hear bog noises.

        (Then again, I’ve worked with techies who like to make fart noises on conference calls so…)

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      Sadly, I can believe this.

      I was called someone regarding a job and it was only when I heard the splash that I realised what was happening. It was disgusting and awful and I have no idea why he picked up the phone when he was mid-toilet.

      1. JanetM*

        Possibly because he was worried that missing the call would mean missing out on the job. “Oh, well, he didn’t answer, must not be interested. We’ll move on to the next candidate and drop him off the list.”

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Still not a good enough excuse to answer the phone and then keep going. I would’ve accepted a quick “Hi, this is a bad time. Can you please call me back in five minutes?” Missed calls happen, it’s not a big deal; what is a big deal is that he was having a poo while talking to me. So very not cool.

    3. nonegiven*

      Anyone seen the latest Charmin TV spot? The whole meeting is telling her to turn off her camera.

    4. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      I was once in the uncomfortable position of being the person using one of the cubicles when someone decided to use the bathroom for their interview. That office had no private space other than the bathroom, but still. Occupied!

  8. SheLooksFamiliar*

    When I was in the defense industry I went to a lot of job fairs in the early 90s. Someone walked by our booth and snorted, ‘CompanyName?! You guys make it easy for our government to murder innocent people…’ and ranted about our evil company. My boothmate and I simply stood in stunned silence, he was MAD. After a minute or so, the guy said, ‘Anyway, here’s my resume.’ Both my boothmate and I must’ve gaped at him, because he laid his resume on the table and walked away, throwing annoyed glances over his shoulder at us.

    Not a traditional job interview, but I remember the man after all these years. And no, we did not bring his resume back with us.

    1. irene adler*

      Like to hear his response to the “why should we hire you?” question.
      (given the interviewer has full knowledge of what was said at the job fair).

      Some people just cannot connect the dots very well.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Laughing at your comment about connecting the dots. The man was very upset about bombs and missiles, and I almost told him, ‘We don’t make those, you want to go yell at the Raytheon booth.’

  9. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Why do I feel like #10’s accomplishment wasn’t necessarily by his own choice?

  10. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    Finger Guns sounds like a stereotype on a comedy. Just. How do these people exist?!

      1. Jen*

        I don’t think he would say ‘chicklet’ though, he’s more the type to sing “BAAAYYYBEEE” to you every 4 words

        1. Rainy*

          I read an amazing “ruined wedding” story on reddit this weekend in which the groom was going to serenade his bride (and everyone else) with a song (When I’m With You by Sheriff) ending with “BAY-BEE” which is when the fireworks were going to go off. He held the note, nothing happened, and he yelled “motherfuckers” super loudly and then ran down the hill and starting fighting the fireworks guy.

          He’d invited all his coworkers and the boss insisted everyone go, so as you might imagine they made serious hay when he came back to work by periodically elongating the last word of a sentence and then shouting “motherfuckers!” and running out of the room.

      2. Forty Years In the Hole*

        I’m picturing the “Guy Fleegman” character from Galaxy Quest – at the movie’s end, the series gets rebooted…and he “finger guns” the viewers. So…skeevy.

          1. Mel*

            Was Tahani the Big Boss when you read it, because she 100% was when I read it.
            (Ugh, Brent.)

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      If you find an answer, let me know. I’ve got far too many experiences with blokes who think that because I’m female that I’m not the head of IT and like to call me ‘girly’ or ‘darling’.

    2. Tegan Jovanka*

      Finger guns?! Wow. I have to wonder if they were interviewing Zapp Brannigan…

      I’m a woman in IT and the “chicklet” comment doesn’t surprise me. I had one senior exec who was adamant that he wouldn’t allow me to set up his email (he was a new employee) because he “didn’t trust a woman with his computer, women always mess up technology.” I said I was the help desk supervisor and EVERY computer was my responsibility. Then I smiled politely, told him to let me know when he was ready for his email, and warned my staff that if he contacted the help desk I’d take the call myself because I didn’t want to subject them to his attitude. It took two days and a conversation with his boss for him to relent, but he glowered at me the whole time and as far as he was concerned any time he couldn’t figure out something with his computer it was always the help desk’s fault because it was “run by a woman.”

    3. EmbracesTrees*

      I had surgery a month ago and the after the surgeon completed the pre-op review, he commented, “alright! giddyap!” and walked out. I turned to the (also smirking) nurse in mock horror and asked, “… did he *really* just say ‘giddyap”?
      Yep, this guy also used “bad boys” with a straight face in our follow up office visit. At least it provides me with joke fodder for the dinner table!

      1. Anon Supervisor*

        Lol, usually surgeons are pretty cold and dry, it’s kind of great that you got a fun one!

  11. laowai_gaijin*

    I hope the “Campin, huntin, fishin and fightin” guy found the perfect job.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      If it were customer service at a sporting goods store, three out of four of those could be actual job skills.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        If it were customer service at a combination sporting goods store/all-night waffle house, all four could be actual job skills.

    2. FisherCat*

      It’s so cringe but this one has a hint of “joke that just didn’t land” energy. That… actually makes it worse.

    3. Anonymouse*

      He really should apply for the file clerk job.

      Otherwise, US Army 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). They fight in the snow. On mountain tops. In the dark. With inadequate rations.

      Any of the Survivor-type reality shows on the Discovery Channel.

  12. Trout 'Waver*

    I really hate the “how would your supervisor describe you?” question because it presumes the supervisor is good at their job. My current supervisor is the single most condescending person I’ve ever met. I would have problems answering that question honestly.

    1. IEanon*

      That’s a good point. In my last interview, I was asked something similar, and I just brought it back to what two of my past supervisors had said about me. I didn’t put any stock in my then-supervisor’s evaluation, for several reasons, but I’d had excellent feedback in prior jobs that I could talk about.

    2. Old Cynic*

      Yup. This. ^^^
      I had a manager once who described me as “wearing my feelings on my sleeve”. I told the truth and he didn’t like that. He wanted people to praise him all the time even when that wasn’t appropriate. He was a horrible boss and one of the reasons I struck out on my own and started my company.

      1. LP*

        oh I have gotten hit with the “you’re so sensitive!” when bringing up something confusing my manager did that didn’t work out well in the end. Yep, I was not allowed to question the boss…

        good for you! my manager was removed two months ago (fired but for an exec I guess you can’t say that)…

    3. Smithy*

      To this day, I’m shocked this didn’t backfire on me – but after I’d been working abroad for a while, I had this question and my reply was that she’d describe me as “very American”.

      Within the overall context, it wasn’t terrible (and goodness knows, had my old boss ever been asked about it – she would have agreed, however she intended the comment….), but looking back it’s not an answer I’d ever give again. Really brought in way too many general stereotypes of “X people are A and Y people are B” and was just far too informal and sarcastic than I’d want to be in an interview.

    4. Artemesia*

      But the actual question is how would you describe yourself in a positive way; so maybe always go into an interview with a brief phrase that sums up your wonderfulness. (or what a good supervisor would say about you)

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Job before this was a terrible supervisor (the reason I left). I would not be able to answer that honestly.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Or how would your favorite supervisor describe you?

        If the supervisor was a slacker it would be fairly obvious in what the candidate thought of to say.

      3. I'm just here for the cats*

        Exactly, it’s not like they are going to write down your answer and immediately call your supervisor and then all you up and say GOTCHA! Your supervisor didn’t say any of those things. You lied

        1. selena*

          Yeah, as long as it sounds like something a supervisor would reasonably say they’re not going to call bull.

    5. MassMatt*

      VERY good point, how is someone supposed to answer this if their prior/current supervisor is terrible? “Well, he’d probably couldn’t recall my name unless you repeated it several times and described me, despite my being the #1 or #2 salesperson in the department over the past 9 quarters”. If your response is how the supervisor SHOULD describe you, it won’t jibe with a reference check. If you get into how your previous supervisor is an idiot, you’re fallen in the trap of badmouthing an employer.

      I suppose you could turn the question around to how your supervisors in general would describe you.

    6. Anon for this*

      My supervisor would say I am terrible at communicating because I interrupt them all the time.

      My supervisor also SAYS THINGS WRONG on critical presentations. Ie “do this” when the presentation is meant to tell people to NOT do this. So much of my presenting with them involves me going “noooooooooooo” (politely of course) and correcting the audience so they don’t go out and do what they were just told to do. Since supervisor is also capable of talking for two minutes without taking a breath, this also occasionally involves interrupting them. Because no other choice if you don’t want the attendees to go out and do what they were wrongly told to do.

    7. Lacey*

      True! I had a previous supervisor tell me I needed too much “hand holding” – by which she meant that I needed the basic parameters of a project and she was horrible at knowing what those were.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        I think we had/have the same supervisor. My supervisor told me a few months back (after I had picked up the pieces of a massive project a few months before the project’s due date and taught myself everything I needed to know about it to execute it well) that they couldn’t trust me to do things I hadn’t done before. In my most recent review, they said I’m doing great and have shown great growth “as long as they give me enough clarity.” And I’m like, you mean the basic parameters of the projects that I have to all but physically drag out of you?? Why yes, I do require clarity on those to do my job, how strange….

        Sorry, apparently this hit a sore spot today. I’m glad you’re out from under that supervisor!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My new supervisor said that after I transitioned to a new area in which I had never even seen any of the documents or procedures. Dear Fergusina, that’s called “training.”

    8. Don P.*

      Because of this, I don’t think I have enough info to judge the “loose cannon” guy. Maybe that’s what the current supervisor would say. What would they mean by that? Would it be right? I hope those were the next questions in the interview.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Totally agree. I’ve had supervisors that were risk averse to the point of needing a committee to change a light bulb. I’m sure they’d describe me as a “loose cannon”.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, but you’d probably have enough sense not to call yourself a loose cannon in an interview.

    9. Anonosaurus*

      I don’t think that this question is designed to get information which will then be compared to a reference check and must be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s really just testing to see if you have an insight into how your managers see you and can phrase this appropriately. So I think it’s fine to answer with reference to the hypothetical competent supervisor, or to give what your idiot supervisor would say an appropriate spin in a way that still conveys something honest about what you’re like to work with.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        I had this once at an internal interview. My current supervisor was the person sitting in on the interview to take notes…

        I managed to refrain from redirecting the question to the person best qualified to answer it and began “I hope that she would describe me as…”

    10. fhqwhgads*

      Just assume what they mean is “how would a reasonable, rational supervisor describe you.”

    11. tamarack and fireweed*

      I’ve always assumed “your supervisor” is meant as a rhetorical prop. What is really asked is to demonstrate the ability to describe one’s own work persona from the perspective of a representative of one’s employer. (And, presumably, the ability not to go on a rant about how bad one’s real supervisor is.)

    12. Keymaster of Gozer*

      “Weird, but worth the effort”.

      (Actual reference from a former boss)

  13. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

    Oh jeez. I feel for the guy in the bathroom. Trying to do phone interviews when you have a full time job and take public transit—so you don’t have a car you can go sit in is rough. I’ve found myself having to choose between going outside (and contending with wind, traffic noise, etc) or finding a corner of a lobby or other public space in a building far enough from my office that I’m unlikely to be seen by a coworker but close enough to make it there, do the interview, and get back in a reasonable amount of time. This gentleman didn’t make a great choice, but I suspect he didn’t feel like he had many options.

    1. Art3mis*

      I did a phone interview in the lobby of our building once. It was a big open area so I thought I could be away from other people without a problem. Until a coworker came downstairs for her break and decided to sit right next to me.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        In my experience of trying to make phone calls outside, you ALWAYS need to keep moving because either people come near you or construction erupts or loud cars drive by….

    2. Artemesia*

      If you are going to take the call in the head, then you need to just say ‘this is awkward but I am at work and there is nowhere private to take a call like this so I have to do it in our restroom.’

    3. Smithy*

      I’m with you on that one. For the longest time, I had one public atrium that I thought worked and later learned sometimes had a wild echo. A better spot ended up being a hotel that had a two level lobby – but it was a lot of guess and check. It’s a job hunt that I’ve always characterized as being particularly long and frustrating and until just now hadn’t thought too heavily how much that wonky echo atrium impacted things.

      All of which to say, increased WFH for those of in fields where interview processes are very often 4-6 interviews total and a number can be done remotely – really helps level the playing field.

    4. Lacey*

      Yeah, I’ve always done my phone interviews in my car. It would be a beast to try and figure it out otherwise.

    5. Washi*

      Yeah, I feel for him. If you work in a small urban office and don’t have a car, a quiet, private space to take a call in the middle of the workday is near-impossible. I used to straight up say that I was outdoors becuase it was the only private place, and people understood.

      HOWEVER taking a call in the kind of bathroom with multiple stalls is not going to help you out of your predicament. It’s kind of like bringing your kid to a job interview. I very much understand how someone would end up in that position, but you’re really unlikely to get the outcome you want by doing it, though I guess some might feel it’s worth a try.

    6. toughtotalk*

      Absolutely! In my old commute, pre-pandemic, I had a food court in the lobby of a building near where I transfered buses downtown, and I’d do phone screens or other job-search calls on my way to work. Otherwise, I felt guilty for taking up the company’s space, but my building was in the middle of an industrial area and I couldn’t just pop over to the warehouse next door, so I’d go to a particularly quiet/unused corner of the office and use a soundproof booth there.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The ‘celibate’ one reminds me of a guy I heard about from my boss who’d asked at the interview how many women worked in the department and how many were ‘single and hot’ because he’d apparently been suffering a lot of stress due to not being able to get a girlfriend.

    The guy didn’t get hired, this firm isn’t that daft, but I’d give my eye teeth for a photo of the look my boss gave when he heard that!

    (Apparently the response was along the lines of ‘that’s not an appropriate topic of discussion’)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        You got further than me! (Look, I’m English and we kinda have a thing for toilet humour so discussion of bog noises cracks me up)

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I have SUCH fun with guys who try that on me if they actually work here. So, so much fun.

  15. Richard Hershberger*

    I am fascinated by the questions where the question asked is not the actual question. Interested in filing? Is anyone? Hole in one guy? His answer is, in other contexts, perfectly cromulent. His mistake was answering the question honestly. The question was, after all, explicit about not being limited to work or school. He failed to understand the distinction, critical to so many standardized tests, between what is asked and what the questioner is looking for.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I am interested in filing if it means I get enough money to pay bills in exchange.

    2. C in the Hood*

      Yeah, I feel for the hole in one guy. I probably would have answered the same way.

    3. fposte*

      I’d say answering the questions contextually rather than honestly. When my back doctor asks how things have been, she’s not looking to hear about my job triumphs (or my golf hole in one).

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Yabbut the question explicitly included personal life. It is an additional level of meta to understand that he should give an answer that featured him overcoming obstacles in a reproducible and at least work-adjacent way. And the thing is, for many jobs his not realizing this would not affect his job performance one iota.

        1. LDF*

          The context is still relevant though. Interviewers include “school or personal life” because they know students probably don’t have work examples yet. But “I organized my summer camp’s bake sale” or “I coordinated my theatre friends’ carpool schedules” is still contextually appropriate. I can see the point that a student might not realize that, but I don’t think it’s irrelevant to their job performance. It’s reasonable to say “between the dozens of candidates we have, we prefer someone who doesn’t need it explicitly stated that a fluke golf achievement is not relevant in a job interview”.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Sure, but at this point you are filtering for the skill of figuring out what the interviewer was looking for as contrasted with what the interviewer asked. Is this a necessary skill for the job? For some jobs it is, but for many it is not.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              It’s also filtering for people who can pick up context clues. He might have brought it off by saying something like, “That experience shows that sometimes just getting in there and doing it can yield good results,” or “I learned that early successes–even with a large component of luck–can really increase passion in people learning new skills,” and he’d have been fine.

            2. Grace*

              In this case it’s filtering for understanding the definition of “achievement”. It’s also filtering for the understanding that during an interview, questions asked by interviewers pertain in some way to the job and answers should be chosen accordingly.

            3. LDF*

              Is this a necessary skill for the job? I would say, yes, for most jobs it is necessary to bring context into understanding what people are saying. As someone else said, if your doctor asks “how is it” they probably mean your health and not your exciting promotion. That’s pretty much how communication works.

          2. Agile Phalanges*

            And I think that it’s a FLUKE “achievement” is also key to it being irrelevant. You can say that you won a golf tournament after years of hard work, practice, hiring the right coaches, etc., and that would be at least more relevant. But accidentally getting a hole in one (or splitting an arrow, or getting a bullseye in target shooting) ONE time, due to a fluke and not due to skill or hard work, isn’t an “achievement.”

            1. EchoGirl*

              Agreed. A comparable achievement that someone actually worked for, maybe not exactly what the interviewer was looking for, but it does demonstrate something about the person (commitment, dedication, hard work, etc.). This, though, isn’t something he *accomplished*, it’s just something that randomly happened to him.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Exactly. “I practiced for years and finally made a hole in one” is an achievement. “I got lucky once” is, well, luck. And calling it an “achievement” speaks to your understanding of achievements which is, I think, very relevant to the context of work.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I still think the hold is one is not an accomplishment, but rather a coincidence. Like, he never did it before or since. He did it by chance, basically. If he’d said he practiced for however long and finally did it, OK I’d buy it as an accomplishment, but “I accidentally did a good sports thing” isn’t.

      2. Littorally*

        Exactly. It isn’t honesty, it’s about time and place.

        Are you interested in filing? Not if the other alternative is videogames, but am I interested in filing versus other work things I could be doing? Yeah, sure, filing is way better than cold calling.

      3. GothicBee*

        But if you answer your doctor as though they’re asking about how your day has been and not how your health has been, your doctor (hopefully) wouldn’t just assume you’re an idiot and move on, they would clarify what they meant.

        I feel like some of these questions deserve some leeway. If you’re in an interview with someone and they answer in a way that makes it obvious they misinterpreted the question, clarify what you mean before you just write them off. Though, with the hole in one example, they did ask the student to expand on that, so hopefully that included some clarifying info on what they were asking.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          But if you answer your doctor as though they’re asking about how your day has been and not how your health has been, your doctor (hopefully) wouldn’t just assume you’re an idiot and move on, they would clarify what they meant.

          Because your doctor needs to provide care even if you’re an idiot. But if you’re potentially an idiot, and there are a lot of other applicants who haven’t given strong evidence that they might be idiots, why not just move on?

    4. Artemesia*

      What these answers display is an inability to understand what the questioner is actually asking (it being a job interview and all). One of the things I am proudest of in my life is that I had the good sense to leave my first husband — early on before kids or anything, in spite of being raised to believe this was a sin and a shame to the family. Without having had the courage to do that, I would not have had the career I have had nor met the man I have been blissfully married to for nearly 50 years. Is this the answer to the question? Hell no. The answer is the program I initiated at work that lead to the division being in the black for the first time in ten years or the book I wrote that is important in its tiny field etc etc. In an interview you have to hear what the real question is —

      1. Queer Earthling*

        Which sucks if you’re neurodivergent or otherwise struggle to read between the lines, if you were raised in a blue collar environment and don’t necessarily know the norms of a white collar job interview, or are from another culture where this rule doesn’t actually usually apply.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          Not to mention that this will exclude certain groups. No need to make questions hidden or requiring inferencing. Use language to make the question accessible to all.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. Interviews are hard enough without including a gotcha question. Be clear and direct.

        2. Don P.*

          And, you know, the people who aren’t so good at understanding the “right way to answer” might be REALLY GOOD at filing. Maybe.

        3. selena*

          Exactly: that kind of ‘reading between the lines’ is way more easy if you f.i. have rich parents who already interpret your accomplishments in ways that a hiring manager would understand (‘you got that boyscout badge through hard work, remember that lesson: hard work pays off’)

          Most poor or ND or foreign people will understand the problem with ‘hole in 1’ when they think about it, but that thought doesn’t come naturally and it helps if an interviewers clarifies ‘no, we are looking for something you achieved through effort’, perhaps followed by ‘were you by any chance a first-generation student?’

    5. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yeah I thought that was a bad question and wrong to penalize him for his answer or his reasons.

      1. Rach*

        I liked his answer. It would have made me smile and I could follow-up with asking specifically about a school/volunteer/summer job accomplishment.

    6. Dr. Rebecca*

      Oh, I actually quite enjoy filing, so long as it’s not my own paperwork, which is all bills that I’m personally responsible for.

      1. Double A*

        So true. Why is organizing other people’s stuff so much more satisfying than organizing one’s own stuff??

        (I more or less know the answer to that, I just wish it weren’t so).

        1. selena*

          ‘when i clean my own place i just cleaned my place, when i clean your place i have helped you’

      2. Jackalope*

        That IS the issue with filing your own stuff, isn’t it? I’ve manage to outsource most of that to my spouse, which makes everyone happier. It I too can enjoy filing at work.

    7. Baska*

      The “interested in filing” one was specifically for a file clerk, though. If you’re not interested in filing, you shouldn’t be applying to a file clerk job!

    8. em-eye*

      I disagree, I think both questions were truthful and straightforward. “Interested” in this context can mean in the sense of “I’m interested in this job” – not that it’s your passion, just that of all the jobs listed at the company, this is the one your interest is directed at. Hole-in-one guy, it sounds like the interviewer asked him to elaborate and he did not, so he didn’t answer the question.

    9. Hillary*

      I miss filing. It was so soothing – it’s not generally complicated and it was satisfying to be done.

      1. nnn*

        I feel the same way about filing. I’d love a job where all I have to do all day is file stuff (as long as someone else designs the filing system – my brain doesn’t do that well). It’s soothing and I like seeing the “to file” pile getting smaller.

        But it would never occur to me to say I’m “interested” in filing. I don’t find it interesting, just, like, meditative. In the context of the job application I’d probably recognize what they’re doing and say I’m interested, but I’d never describe what I actually feel about it as interested.

    10. LQ*

      Part of a lot of jobs is being able to understand the context of the situation. I would be way more bothered by this answer from a mid or senior-level person. If they were applying for an actual entry-level position….I’m not so bothered. But if a midlevel person or worse a senior level person answers this way that is a good clear demonstration that they don’t understand the context which is a work skill that everyone needs to develop. If I had to tell a senior person that “What I need in this situation is an answer that is relevant to work” they’d never get any work done because I’d spend thousands of hours saying all the things that every element of their job was or wasn’t about.

      For a new entry level person…eh, some of them get it wrong sometimes and you do want to give constructive feedback but it’s not quite the right time for it.

    11. meyer lemon*

      I don’t think the hole in one guy misunderstood the question, though. It just reflected badly on him. I would say that the interviewer got the information they needed from his answer.

      1. LizM*

        Yeah, a fluke hole in one is not an achievement. If you think it is, and that’s the thing you’re most proud of, that actually does tell the interview something about your work ethic.

        If it was an otherwise good interview, I wouldn’t necessarily write this person off completely, but it’s not a good answer.

        “What is your greatest achievement?” is not a trick question.

      2. Sabina*

        We had a candidate answer a similar “proudest moment” question by relating how he saved a friend from choking using the Heimlich maneuver. OK, that’s a pretty good answer. But…then he added “yeah, I didn’t even mind huggin’ him from the rear and lookin’ gay, ’cause I saved my buddy’s life!” Next!

    12. Moocowcat*

      Filing is genuinely interesting to me. My brain finds it to be an immensely pleasurable and calming activity. So, people can literally answer the question honestly. Though lets say that a candidate doesn’t find filing to be an intrinsically rewarding experience. They should be interested enough in filing to exchange their actions for currency.

    13. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, I felt bad for the student who was presumably genuinely very proud of that hole in one! They said they *wanted* to give constructive criticism but didn’t say if they did and I think it would be very reasonable to do so and wish that they had! Tell them that sounds great but do they have any examples of something maybe more relevant to the job.

    14. KateM*

      I don’t think the mail thing about “hole in one” guy was that it was about golf, but rather that he considered having random luck once to be an “achievement”.

    15. mreasy*

      Calling a fluke hole in one a notable “accomplishment” seems to misunderstand the idea of accomplishment.

    16. tamarack and fireweed*

      The problem isn’t that he should have given a dishonest answer – of course he shouldn’t have. The problem is that his honest answer shows a blatant lack of maturity. If you’re asked to reflect on your greatest professional achievement and your answer is a stroke of dazzlingly rare beginner’s luck at a new-to-you sport you aren’t where you should be.

      There are many ways to answer a question honestly, and I’m absolutely convinced that this candidate had much better honest achievements available to him.

    17. KookieMonster8*

      I’m fascinated by it too. I would have smiled or laughed when I heard the hole-in-one story and then asked a better question. I’m Neurodivergent and that question would have confused me as a new graduate. It’s not a fair question to ask because it can exclude people. Interviewers need to be more specific in their wording.

    18. JB*

      This comes across as if you’re being both intentionally obtuse and a bit snobby. Do you really believe that nobody is interested in filing, just because you’re not? I would kill for a job that consisted primarily of filing. And do you really believe that a ‘luck of the draw’ hole-in-one is an accomplishment? If he’d won the lottery, would that also be an accomplishment?

  16. AdAgencyChick*

    Oh, so very satisfying that the person Finger Gun Guy was being condescending to was the OWNER.

    1. MassMatt*

      The only way it could be improved is if the owner told him he was rejected while also making finger guns.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        This absolutely happened and I refuse to entertain any other options, including reality.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      The one place I worked where people could come in to fill out job applications, the receptionist usually included notes she put on the applications about their behavior, that I knew HR took super seriously. “This person was very polite” “This person did not listen to my directions on how to fill out the form”. “This guy was pushy”. It is always a good idea to be nice to whoever is behind the receptionist desk.

      1. Pam*

        In my days working as a fast food manager, I always watched for the ones who came up during rush periods and asked for spplications- do not hire!

        1. Don P.*

          Sounds good, but I bet for a lot of people meals are when they can get away and ask for applications.

      2. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

        When I was an executive assistant, I also was put in charge of a whole project that involved moving employees to temporary spaces and then to a new permanent office space. I was fairly involved with the build out process of the new office space as well. So, my executive took my opinion on the contractors we hired fairly seriously.

        One of the contractors we met with never acknowledged me or spoke to me during our entire meeting. Like, straight-up ignored my existence despite shaking the hands of everyone else in the room. Guess who absolutely didn’t get the contract?

        Admins run the world and they have more influence than you think. Treat ‘em well.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, if you were a jerk to the receptionist, you were not going to get hired. My organization takes pride in being a nice place for everyone to work and treated everyone professionally and like fellow human beings. We also run a customer service business and can’t risk someone being rude to the wrong person because they didn’t perceive them to be “important” enough.

        1. LizM*

          Yup, being professional with me and a jerk to the receptionist only tells me that you know better and choose not to care. Which in some ways is worse than not realizing how you come across.

        2. tangerineRose*

          ” can’t risk someone being rude to the wrong person” Yep. Also, you don’t want someone like that on your team anyway.

  17. Cedarthea*

    I run a summer camp, I have had all the kinds of interviews, but these are pretty amazing.

    I had a returning staff tell me she wanted a leadership position because she wanted to be able to boss people around. At least she was honest … but she didn’t get any job at camp that year because the year before she decided she should boss people around (including me) regardless of her position.

    I’ve had more absurdist firing stories, teenagers are such characters.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Teenagers are mostly just toddlers with additional height and slightly better language skills. Characters for sure!

      1. Magenta Sky*

        In my experience, the language skills aren’t always any better.

        On the other hand, that experience isn’t limited to just teenagers, either.

        Management is a lot like babysitting sometimes.

        1. Sanity Lost*

          I joke that being HR in a small construction company is pretty much the same as being a parent to teenagers.
          “Yes you have to obey OSHA standards, I don’t care if you think they’re stupid, do it right!”
          “No, you can’t stand on a bucket or use it as a sawhorse”
          “STOP!” The forklift is NOT a joyride!!!!
          “No, you can’t jump the ATV off the ramp, because it’s faster. You will be fired, and yes you must wear a helmet at all times”. (He was fired)
          Ad Infinitum..

          These are all things I have had to say to grown men and document into their files.

          1. pretzelgirl*

            Being an administrative assistant to a large department is like being a mom. I am constantly reminding people to get their “homework done” (ie: turn the stuff they need so we stay in compliance). Handing it back and saying “Sorry you did’nt do this right please redo”. Setting up lunches and parties for the department (no COVID times). Stepping up to work that no one else wants done, lol.

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Fair assessment. Easier to understand individual words at least, debatable once strung together though. (There’s a lot less “GUH!” at least. One of my small humans used that as a toddler for basically every noun.)

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My husband at times refers to it as “attempting to herd cats.” Some of the things I have heard when he needed to vent for five mins. I seriously wonder how some of them manage to exist in normal society – they sound like Lor from ST:TNG.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              No his group are cats – three of them are convinced they know best and the world should bow to their superior intellect. I’ve met one of them – seriously made me think I was talking to Lor.

              (They also change directions too fast and randomly, while stubbornly insisting they know best to be a turtle.)

        4. tangerineRose*

          “Management is a lot like babysitting sometimes.” This is why I never want to be in management again.

  18. Secret Identity*

    So, I have to say I kind of feel a bit for the Bathroom Interviewer. Yes, it was a scheduled interview, but I have literally had times where it was either run to the bathroom RIGHT NOW or go in my pants. And, if I’d had a call scheduled at that very moment, I don’t know what I would have done! Either you answer the call and hope they can’t hear, or you let it go to voicemail and hope they’ll take your call when you call them back, but then how do you explain?? “I’m sorry for not answering when you called – you see, I had a massive explosion about to happen and had to run to the toilet right that moment, and so was…indisposed…when you called. But it’s all over now, so let me tell you why I’m the right candidate for this job!”
    And, sure, he lied about being in the bathroom, but really, I may have done the same thing. I’m not a liar, generally speaking, but a small lie in certain situations is acceptable, in my opinion. Like this one.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I’d let it go to voicemail and say a sudden emergency came up.

      I have unfortunately known enough people who thought they could have a conversation while pooping without anyone noticing. I did not enjoy figuring it out.

      1. Golden*

        Before my office moved floors, I would occasionally use the restroom at the same time as another person who was ALWAYS on the phone while doing their business.

        There’s no way the person at the other end wasn’t hearing flushing, toilet paper rolling, #2 noises, everything.

        Those people certainly do exist!

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Voicemail, then call back with “I apologize for not answering when you called, I didn’t realize I was in a dead zone, it was only when I checked after 5 minutes had passed did I realize I had missed your call”

      You never want to be the bathroom guy/gal in an interview.

      Without being graphic, generally if it is a “RIGHT NOW” type of bathroom situation it is not subtle. They will hear.

    3. Smithy*

      My guess is not that this person needed to go so much so as they’d been using that work toilet for interviews because it was known as usually being empty. I still have a huge amount of sympathy, because if this was one of those initial HR screenings – they’re very often around 30 minutes?

      Certainly a very important first step, but if you work somewhere where to get that kind of privacy is difficult – I understand trying to find an alternative to taking time off.

      1. Mm*

        I feel like this being the only place to get privacy is the likely answer. Otherwise he probably wouldn’t be there for 15 min. He probably panicked when asked about it, but he should have said “sorry about that, I’m in the bathroom waiting area since it’s the only area for privacy in my office”.

        Idk though, it’s sooo hard to do those quick screeners while keeping your job search on the DL. I’ve taken them in my 100+ degree car, while walking (hoping the wind wasn’t too bad), by taking a whole sick day for the 15 min call, by borrowing a friend’s office, etc. It’s always a scramble.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      I’d let it go to voicemail if I was in a rush when the call came in, or have a technical difficulty if the need occurred during the call. Having had the experience myself, people are generally very forgiving of dropped calls/lost audio issues.

    5. Lizzo*

      Why not answer the call and say, “Please excuse the inconvenience–I have a very small emergency I need to deal with immediately, and will need to call you back in about 10 minutes”? And then when you call back, give a very brief explanation that makes clear the urgency and also that it wasn’t something you could control the timing of. I would hope that a good hiring manager/interviewer would appreciate the unfortunate timing, and also that you didn’t take the call while in the loo!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Especially when the call happens during the workday. Hopefully a potential employer would appreciate you having to take care of an emergency *at work* rather than saying “sorry, breaktime!” (Yes, I know some wouldn’t, but it’s not necessarily a bad idea to weed them out.)

  19. Amber Rose*

    Does anyone else read Not Always Right? There was a story on there about a science lab researching cryopreservation who had an interviewee come in and confidently say that the answer to their problem was bull semen, and then said “I’m not going to give you all of my good ideas today. First you have to hire me.”

    Some people are just astonishingly out of touch with reality.

    1. Jubilance*

      I love Not Always Right and I remember reading that one…and thinking it would be a good story for Ask A Manager.

    2. JelloStapler*

      I read that, loved it. Austin is also that really the here just googled it, read half an article then thought he figured out how to apply it to their industry/process?

      1. JelloStapler*

        Dear lord, sorry about the text to talk fail.
        Wasn’t it that the guy had just Googled the topic, read half an article and though he could apply it to their industry- but it was apples to oranges?

        1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

          I believe he had done a quick google, noticed the prevalence of the term “bull semen” (because cryopreservation is often used for the storage and transport thereof), and somehow come to the conclusion that bull semen could in fact be used in the actual cryopresevation process itself.

    3. Gray Lady*

      “I’m going to give you one out of context part of my idea but you have to hire me to get the rest” was an actual shtick on The Office. I wonder which came first?

  20. Crazy Cat Lady*

    I once had a job candidate show up for an interview wearing crocs. And no, it wasn’t a position nor are we a company for which that would seem appropriate. (Not that I can think
    of any job where that would be appropriate) And she was not a younger, inexperienced candidate. She was a well educated middle age woman.

    1. Artemesia*

      If she didn’t start the conversation with ‘I just broke my toe and these are the only shoes I could get on’. then WOW. I did break a toe the night before an interview once taking place at a conference. Luckily I did have a pair of flats with me I could fit the miserable foot in — but can imagine only crocs would work for someone.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Agree, usually if there’s something going on it’s tossed out on the table first thing to get it out in the open.

        “Before we start, I must apologize for my odd choice in footwear today. I managed to drop something on my toe last night and broke it. Unfortunately these are the only shoes that would work today!”

        “So it’s not a distraction, I realize I have a black eye, I wasn’t as quick as I should have been playing shortstop in my softball game earlier this week”

        “Pardon the road rash, I found out the hard way that they had resurfaced the road on my bike ride a couple of days ago”

        Of course, my philosophy has always been to own the awkward, it seems to be so much easier than trying to avoid it and worrying about it.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I had to do this on the first day of my current job: “Sorry I’m late; my front wheel got caught in the railroad tracks and I wiped out on my bike and went to buy bandaids,” said with my bleeding left hand held in the air and my right hand holding up the edge of my skirt to keep it off my bleeding right knee. (My co-workers were very nice about it.)

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      If she otherwise interviewed well, dressed professionally otherwise, and was a good candidate, I don’t think this is a reason not to hire her. She may have very serious injuries or medical conditions and didn’t want to reveal her personal info to the panel.

    3. many bells down*

      I actually have a pair of Crocs that are dress flats, but I know that’s not the kind you meant. No one knows mine are Crocs until I tell them.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I have some that are leather Mary Janes. Sadly, they don’t make them anymore.

        1. many bells down*

          I don’t think they make these anymore, either. They’re the Eve slingbacks. So light and comfy.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I once came to work in one red fuzzy slipper because I rolled my foot off a curb and deep-bruised it so badly I couldn’t wear a real shoe and had to borrow my dad’s automatic-transmission car to avoid using a clutch. But if I had been interviewing I would have explained that (and probably gotten a slipper that was less conspicuous).

      Also, we had researchers from overseas in that week and they wanted a picture of staff “doing things” so there is a picture of me with mismatched feet that was published in multiple Japanese newspapers about five years ago.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I would have totally had those pictures framed and displayed in my office :)

      2. Cathie from Canada*

        I will NEVER forget the day I looked down at my feet and realized I had been wearing one black pump and one navy pump all day – I guess I had been in a hurry that morning and I got dressed in a darker room and the shoes were the same height so they felt basically the same.
        In retrospect, I was glad I hadn’t actually looked at my feet until late in the day, because there was nothing I could have done to change my shoes at work, and at least this way I wasn’t embarrassed for long as I was going home soon anyway.
        And nobody else at work had noticed either.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have several pairs of dress flats, and several pairs of Converse, that I deliberately got a variety of colors in the same respective styles so that I COULD wear them as mix-and-match. Little kids love it – they either make up stories for me about why my shoes don’t match, or they get all proud of themselves because THEIR shoes match so clearly they are doing one step better than this grownup. (I never wear matching socks either.)

        2. Tessie Mae*

          I once arrived at court and realized that the pumps I brought along in the car were one black, one tan (same style). Luckily, the flats I wore to drive in were black, “dressy enough,” and coordinated nicely with my suit. So, so happy that I did not drive in sneakers (or slippers–do people drive in slippers?) rather than flats. I am still not sure which footwear would have been deemed good enough for court otherwise. Probably the mis-matched pumps.

          1. Artemesia*

            I got dressed for a funeral of a work colleague in the darkish dawn and ended up with a navy blazer rather than black which obviously clashed with the slacks and everything else — felt like a doofus and started keeping the black and navy blazers in different closets.

        3. Despachito*

          Haha, Cathie, the same thing happened to me once – even the colors were the same, one pump navy, one black.

          And I also found out only after work, and as well as you, I bet that no one but me noticed.

          1. Christmas Carol*

            I did it too, once I found comfortable fitting pumps I could wear all day, I bought them in every color available. But while my navy pump was matt leather, the black was a nice shiny patent leather.

        4. knitcrazybooknut*

          I had three pairs of similar, not identical boots, and realized about halfway through the day that I was wearing different boots. The heel height wasn’t even the same — probably different by a half inch! I couldn’t stop laughing about it all day and shared with many of my coworkers.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      We had a candidate (same category as CCL’s) who came in wearing old worn-in sandals, but she did explain that her luggage had gotten delayed on the flight to the site visit and given the timing of flight vs interview, she had only enough time to buy her current interview outfit just to show up looking presentable. Explanations help so much with mitigating less than ideal things that happen in an interview.

      Unfortunately, while she explained the footwear just fine, she was completely incapable of describing her past work in any way that we could follow. It wasn’t like it was sensitive company info that she was masking the actual content of, which can be hard to do, this was her terminal degree work that she was hoping to finish within a few months.

      1. Artemesia*

        After one experience like this I always flew in outfits that I could plausibly present in –might be black jeans, but with a blazer not a hoodie. Or on a long international flight — had one that was 26 hours and transfers in Chicago, London, and Rome before arriving in the Middle East — I always carried on the work material and one complete presentable outfit. This was back when paisley long sleeve polyester dresses were a work dress thing (shudder) and that outfit and shoes would pack down small enough to include in the carry on with the work materials. Oddly the long flight was fine and I had my work wardrobe, but the one I ended up presenting in what I flew in only had one US connection.

    6. TechWorker*

      I wore crocs solidly for about 6 months until I discovered my ‘foot injury’ was just ‘your ligaments are shit and you need orthotics’. Dress codes aren’t super strict in tech but idk if I would have brought it up in an interview (how long are you looking at their feet?)

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, Crocs aren’t really comfortable long-term. Sure, they feel nice at first but after a while your whole body is thrown out of whack. At one job, we had clean-room dedicated Crocs, and we would change out of our regular shoes outside the door. When I had projects that required a lot of time in the clean room, I got terrible tendinitis. Turns out I have flat arches and really need better support. But the Crocs felt comfortable at first so I get why lots of people like them.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And given the material most crocs are made of – also super easy to clean if the shift gets “messy.”

    7. KateM*

      See, I’d expect middle-age women to be much prone to feet problems that may ask for crocs than young ones.

      1. Anon Supervisor*

        Actually, Haflingers and Birks are where it’s at when your feet are terrible (I have chronic plantar faciitis). Haflingers are made with boiled wool and your feet don’t really sweat and do not stink. They also have an anatomical footbed, so they not only make your foot feel great, but your back doesn’t hurt either.

  21. Binderry*

    We interviewed a candidate for a mid-level position and asked the typical “why do you want to work here?” type question. His answer was that he was desperate to get out of his current position because he was responsible for bringing up criminal charges against his grand boss, so his boss hated him for that. He was very proud of that fact and, I guess thought it was a selling point for us to hire him.

      1. Binderry*

        It was more that this was his only reason for wanting to work with us. He said nothing about our organization or what about our position he liked, just that he wanted to get away from his current boss. If any candidate responded to that question to only say negative things about their current employer and nothing about why they wanted this specific position, it would not go over well. Plus, the charges were nothing work related, so not really a whistleblower.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          That sounds like a candidate running away from a job instead of running toward a new one… There is definitely a difference.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, this would be more an answer to “Why are you leaving your current position?”

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      If you’re looking for an ethical employee, I would pick this one, but it was bad judgement to give that as the reason why they want to work at YOUR org, though. The common advice is pick something about the place you are interviewing at that shows you: 1) bothered to look at their website and are familiar with their business; 2) explain why your skills and experience would be a good fit at the org; and 3) don’t badmouth your current or previous employer.

      1. Binderry*

        If it had been a situation where he had exposed corruption or a problem in the workplace, absolutely. I supposed I should have added more context here, but was trying to protect anonymity. Basically, it was that in his prior employment working in law enforcement that he had been involved in bringing up charges against his grandboss (or it may have been a friend of the grand boss, I don’t really remember). The charges were nothing work related, but personal (think like DUI). I understand why he wouldn’t want to work for someone that he has that type of history with, but it wasn’t a great reason to say in an interview.

    2. Cdn Acct*

      Yeah, I don’t know if he should be proud with knowing details, but if there are charges that usually means there is some evidence, so why would it be a negative against him?

      1. Binderry*

        As I mentioned above, it was really the fact that this was his only reason for applying for the job. He said nothing about what about our organization he liked or why he wanted to work there. And the situation with this grand boss sounded more of a personal conflict (charges were nothing work related and had occurred prior to them working together). While it’s understandable that he wanted to get away from that situation, not really a great response as to why you want to to work for us.

      2. Madame X*

        His answer still does not provide a clear answer as to why he wants to work for Binderry’s organization that would be relevant to fulfilling the job. He should have explicitly stated what skills or experience he brings to the role. Not JUST that he is running away from his current one (albeit for a very good reason).

    3. Me*

      It wasn’t a great answer to the question because desperate for a new job isn’t a good reason.

      But clutching pearls at the answer and implying that it made him a bad candidate? He has ethics despite the risk to his own livelihood. A candidate who can demonstrate the ethics to do the right thing is a selling point.

      1. Binderry*

        Yeah, I worded by post badly, that’s my fault. The candidate had worked in law enforcement previously and had arrested the grand boss (or friend of grand boss, I don’t really remember) for something non-work related years before they worked together. Either way, it created a personal conflict that the candidate wanted to get away from. Not an ethical issue or whistleblower situation, more of a personal conflict between the grand boss and candidate, which, while understandable, not great to talk about in an interview.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, but you want to hire someone who can at least come up with a reason why they want *this* job. I can respect your ethics while still realizing you probably won’t stay long here because you don’t want this job at all.

  22. Raincoaster*

    I think I’ve told this story before, but I used to work at a Major Coffee Retailer. They were justly renowned for workplace diversity and strong support for LGBTQ people.

    Our head of security was brilliant at her job and was going to be very difficult to replace when she decided to retire. They interviewed dozens of people over roughly a year and finally found their dream candidate. They set him up for an interview with her, and it all went very well until she asked why he’d left his last job. He replied, “Too damn many f****ts.” And that was that.

    It took another several months to find someone else.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*


      Okay that beats the ‘I left my last two jobs because I got accused of molesting *insert really horrible euphemism for women here*’ one I heard years ago.

      Just…darn. I got to admire her for not dumping coffee on that guy.

      1. Raincoaster*

        Oh no, he’d been interviewed by several people before getting to her. This was just to get her rubber stamp. I can only assume he gave his previous interviewers a different answer. And she’s gay, so you can imagine how it went down.

    2. Snarkastic*

      How sad is it that I recognized your name and avatar from the Gawker era, maybe a decade ago?

      1. Raincoaster*

        It’s not sad, it’s BRANDNG!

        Seriously, I’ve been using this name and logo for easily 20 years and the logo cost me so much I will NEVER give it up.

        KillerMartinis, Hez and I were talking about doing another Gawker commenter meetup after the pandemic. Does Chicago work for you?

        I told this story at Gawker too!

    3. EchoGirl*

      At least that makes me feel slightly better about my worst interview experience. It was for an LGBTQ organization and when they were asking me about why I wanted to work there, my familiarity with the topic, etc., I basically ended up stammering out the equivalent of “I have gay friends.”

      What was actually going on was that a few days before the interview, I had been trying to talk to someone (someone I’m close with) about the fact that I thought I was bi and that person kind of blew me off and implied that I was misguided. I was already less than certain about it (it turned out to be a little more complicated than just “bi”), so come the interview, I didn’t want to say it because I was afraid of being one of those people who just says she’s bi because they think it makes them different or “interesting”. I don’t blame them in the slightest for not calling me back though, I’m fully aware it was my mistake regardless of context. (I blame the original person I told slightly, but that was years ago and I’m mostly over it.)

      1. EchoGirl*

        Sorry, didn’t close the loop on that thought. What I meant to say is, at least I only made myself look oblivious (with regards to a similar situation) instead of, well, *that*.

        1. cryptid*

          if it makes you feel better, in a phone screen I described the clinic I was interviewing with, which does healthcare for all trans folks and cis women, as “trans women and the other kinds of women” in a moment of panic during an interview, despite the fact that I’m trans and I’m trying to specialize in trans healthcare, so I really do know what I’m talking about! (I did get the job, though! today was my 1st day)

  23. MassMatt*

    I believe the candidate in #2 also addressed his answers only to the male in the room, despite the fact that the interview was being conducted by the female hiring manager. Number two, indeed!

    No word on whether he also made finger guns.

  24. ATX*

    Omg the pisser and finger guns, I’m cackling. Would love to know what happened with finger guns and how they told him he didn’t get the job. Hopefully they didn’t even proceed with the meeting!

  25. plums*

    My favorite interview story comes from my call center days – we asked one candidate a question about how they manage their call times. The candidate straight up said they hung up on people to keep their call times down.

    We ended the interview shortly thereafter. They were not hired.

    1. Cathie from Canada*

      Yes, I had an interview like that too, for a secretary-type position in my government office. We asked how she had handled difficult callers who asked questions she couldn’t answer. She said she hung up on them.
      OK, well, thank you so much for your time, we’ll be in touch…..

  26. Robin Ellacott*

    These are both funny and unsurprising.

    My best (worst) are:
    – The guy who repeatedly told us (three women) he always has to be the alpha dog, told me I “look like I exercise”, and told a bunch of stories about not doing what his boss wanted because he knew better. When he got the inevitable “we’re moving forward with another candidate” email he said angrily he thought he had the job in the bag
    – The young woman who told us a lifetime of trauma including being bullied in third grade, which was sad, but not relevant
    – The person who somehow talked about their divorce in the answer to every question
    – The man who asked me if I was there to take notes – I and a man his age were interviewing him. I’d introduced myself as the COO but I guess he wasn’t listening.

    1. irene adler*

      “Well, I’ll be taking note of what you just asked me, does that count?”

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        This is the kind of comment that only occurs to me after I have left the room, but it would have been perfect. I just glared at him and flatly said “No.” which was far less witty.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Your flat “No” may not have been witty, but it was appropriately and efficiently hostile, both of which he totally deserved. In other words, you corrected his boorishness without wasting your time. Nice.

    2. Elenna*

      That last guy – of course he wasn’t listening, why would he listen to anything that comes out of a woman’s mouth? Don’t you know women’s only purpose is to shut up and take notes? /sarcasm

  27. MusicWithRocksIn*

    I was being interviewed for my first job out of collage, when the owner of the company (one of three people interviewing me) got up and told me that he had to go pass a kidney stone, and walked out. The other two people (both women) where clearly embarrassed but soldered on without comment. I did get the job, and it was the source of all of my “You probably aren’t going to believe this, but I used to work at a place where…” stories. And the fact that I was never again willing to work at a small privately owned company.

  28. Sanity Lost*

    I had a interviewee snap his fingers under my nose, while I was on the phone (after I had told him I’ll be right with him); demanding a cup of coffee. I finished the call, asked how he wanted his coffee and on my way back to the break room, just happened to walk into the VP’s office (who was conducting the interview). I might have mentioned that the jerk…. I mean applicant was out front and maybe alluded to how he asked for that cup of coffee. I brought out that coffee with a smile and told him the VP would be right with him ;)

    Don’t irritate the receptionist who works there!

    1. Lacey*

      Goodness! I thought everyone knew you’ve got to be friendly to the receptionist!
      Plus, you never know when that person is someone higher up stepping in to fill a gap. I mean, maybe not at a huge company, but even at the mid-sized company I’m at, someone from the C-suite could end up handling something entry level for a moment or two.

  29. Primavera*

    During early pregnancy, I was conducting the phone interview and had to put the candidate on mute to puke over and over and over.

    I still took notes somehow?? And he made it to the next stage!!

    1. Foxgloves*

      This reminds me of the fact that there was recently a story on the BBC that I think was meant to be “inspirational” but was actually just horrifying about a CEO who conducted an interview when she was LITERALLY ON THE LABOUR WARD GIVING BIRTH. She said she had to “apologise to the candidate for the screams in the background”. Can you IMAGINE?! The poor candidate! (Muting to vomit is much less egregious!)

  30. Decidedly Me*

    One of my favorites on an application was the person that talked about their long and varied experience, which was 6 months at one job total according to their resume. There were also the folks that mention they want to work for us because they’re bored, have debts to pay off, etc.

    Then there was the interviewee who spent the whole interview talking down to me and telling me how amazing he was and how we’d be fools not to hire him (never really answering the questions I actually asked). When he was rejected, he wrote back asking why we didn’t hire him when he was clearly the best person, while also mentioning that he’d been rejected in something like his past 50 interviews.

  31. Queer Earthling*

    #6: It amazes me how many people apparently resort to peeing on things to express their displeasure. Like…were you a chihuahua until last week, when a wizard made you switch bodies with your owner?

  32. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Once in grad school I took a job interview call while I was in the computer lab. Since the lab was filled with other computer-science students working on their stuff, I went to the benches outside the lab. It must have been a lively interview because for WEEKS after that I had people asking me how it had gone. Luckily I got the job!

  33. Aiani*

    I once interviewed a man who told a story about arguing with his supervisor over some minor point. He seemed very proud of himself.

    Then when I asked him about dealing with a difficult work situation he told me about a time in which he argued with a woman about taking off her hoodie inside the store where he was working as security. He said he ended up knocking her down by accident and it turns out she was pregnant.

    As I was looking at him, too stunned to know how to respond, he told me that he found it difficult to “work with females because they are always using their femininity to get away with things.” Not that he should have made that comment to anyone but I am a woman…I really don’t know how he expected me to take that.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I don’t know. I mean, men use their masculinity to get away with things all the time. Why should it be any different for women?

      /s (but kind of not)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      As I was looking at him, too stunned to know how to respond, he told me that he found it difficult to “work with females because they are always using their femininity to get away with things.” Not that he should have made that comment to anyone but I am a woman…I really don’t know how he expected me to take that.

      Maybe he just watched the movie Ted, where Ted says all sorts of horrible things in an interview, hoping he won’t get the job. Unfortunately, the guy interviewing him just thinks he’s brave and ballsy to say something like that, and hires him.

  34. Just Another HR Pro*

    Ok for starters – I just sent this to all of my HR friends for #4 alone. I needed a good laugh and that was it!

    But I kind of disagree with #7. The position was a student role, so he wasn’t applying for a management role or anything. Plus – to get a hole in one in real golf (not Tiger Woods golf, Top Golf, or Golden Tee, in which I would be a golf pro myself, hence not needing this job) after only playing a handful of times? He is young, so he hasn’t had a lot of accomplishments so I wouldn’t hold that against him. He wasn’t relegated to just professional accomplishments. If you want something less pompous I wouldn’t add personal life to the mix.

    Perhaps I am missing something since it made the cut, by I personally don’t think he didn’t anything do wrong for someone so green in their professional life.

    1. new kid*

      It wasn’t an accomplishment at all though? The interviewer pressed to try to give him the benefit of the doubt on how it might relate to hard work or diligence or other admirable skills and he basically said it was a fluke.

      I don’t think something sports related would be a terrible answer given the context of ‘or personal’ if it were actually, you know, an accomplishment. This wasn’t.

    2. BubbleTea*

      It just seems unlikely that he has no other examples of achievements that were less to do with luck/chance. I mean, I once got a strike when bowling. I’m abysmal at bowling, but statistically you throw enough balls and one of them will knock stuff over.

  35. ToBe(late) or NotToBe(late)*

    Oh I just remembered the other guy…

    Was hiring for a data analyst. We gave a 5 question test at the beginning of the interview. 4 questions were straight out of an SQL intro book and one was out of the next level. I graded very generously it was basically used as a screener test (much like the filing- interested/not interested).

    Anyway, interviewed a guy who was a referral from our client PM. He bombed the test, didn’t even fully answer any of the questions. Before the interview I offered him something to drink, he asks for a can of pop… no problem, I gave him a can of coke.

    During the interview, I couldn’t actually get any real answers from him. I think he was just beyond nervous, but everytime I’d ask a question he’d take a looooooooong drink from his can. He’d sort of mumble out an answer in between drinks of coke. I was only about 3 questions in and he asked me if he could have another can of coke. At this point I was a bit stunned, confused, and amused so I got him another can. I think I got two more questions out and wrapped up the interview.

    He was so worried, that he wasn’t done with his coke, so I assured him he could take it with him.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Aww. As funny as that is, I also feel a little bit bad for the guy. Job interviews suck in one way or another for everyone, but they’re worse for certain types of people.

      1. ToBe(late) or NotToBe(late)*

        I did feel bad for him. He was so nervous! I did have a chat with the guy who recommended him and suggested that a few interview pointers (including not sucking down beverages like you just ate a ghost pepper) would be a good idea before he was recommended for any other positions.

    2. L Dub*

      As a data analyst, I’m fairly certain you interviewed the person that is my current co-worker.

  36. EarthBound*

    The two that have stood out to me in my years of interviewing:

    -We were interviewing someone for an entry-level position who was overqualified. We asked why he was applying. He said, “Oh, I plan to have your boss’ job and be running this place in 2 years.”

    -We were interviewing someone for a manager position. The interviewer was going well, then she asked. “Are you guys sticklers on attendance.” We explained that there was a generous leave policy, but that this was public facing position and employees were expected to be there during business ours. “So you guys wouldn’t be cool if I just show up whenever. I’m looking for a real chill workplace.”

  37. Alldogsarepuppies*

    I once had an interview where the boss interviewed me first and then all his employees joined. One of which was his daughter. The two of them began to fight on why he had more photos of her sister than her up.

    1. Edge of my seat*

      Please keep did it end? Did you just sit back and wish you had popcorn?

  38. Jennifer*

    I have a bit of compassion for the person on the toilet but for goodness sakes, MUTE your phone before you flush.

    1. Burnt eggs*

      I am not heavy into any of these, but I think I would so rather work with this person than soooii many of the ones I do IRL

  39. Apolitical*

    I work with a tight-knit group of three other professionals whose work has nothing to do with politics. A few years ago, we interviewed a candidate who, unprompted, went on a 10-minute rant about the evils of “a certain political party” (his words) and how they were ruining the country. (We live in a state strongly dominated by the political party to which he was clearly referring.)

    It was hard to contain my laughter when my very soft-spoken coworker, a member of that party, asked, “Sir, what political party would that be?” You could see the candidate’s face go from “uh, duh” to “oh shit” when he realized he was not speaking to his in-group.

    Know your audience!

  40. Momma Bear*

    Re the toilet thing, I have never understood anyone taking any phone call in the bathroom for any reason. Even in a casual conversation setting, I would much rather they put me on hold and come back or call me later.

  41. Inquiring Minds*

    Is there a way to read this article without subscribing to Inc? When I click over, I just get subscription options.

      1. Inquiring Minds*

        Ok thanks. I only read your articles on there – guess I have met my monthly limit!

  42. Shanny B*

    I was interviewing a candidate who had worked at the world’s most famous theme park and referred to it as “Mouse-witz” like the most lethal WWII Nazi extermination camp. It was so offensive I wish I had ended the interview right there – but at least I’m grateful that he made our decision not to bring him back very easy.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Wow, as I’m reading this comment thread, my eyebrows keep rising higher and higher but this is really something. I’m afraid to jinx it by saying it can’t get any worse than this one, but I think my eyebrows are now permanently stuck at my hairline.

  43. Quickbeam*

    I’ll toss one in. I was interviewing candidates for a professional role at my company. I was not the supervisor but a licensed professional and they needed an opinion on how the candidates stacked up in that role. We interviewed a woman who was highly qualified. The job requirements were professional license, x # years of clinical experience, driver’s license, “some travel”.

    She did very well in the interview. I went over the basics and discussed what we meant by some travel….occasional trips for work wthin the region and to the home office, less than a 20 mile radius. Approximately 2-3 a year. She was a licensed driver and had a car/she drove to the interview. She kept coming back to the travel issue and trying to get us to commit to “no travel”. I thought she might have misunderstood or thought we’d require flying or overnights which we did not. This was literally a couple times a year for inservices and meeting with home office staff.

    She kept at this and finally said “It’s a deal breaker, I won’t travel for a job”. And walked out. She then called mulitple times to try and get the travel requirement deleted. It was weird all the way around. We also found out from the person who referred her that this was not an ADA or medical issue, she just didn’t want to drive/travel at all for any job.

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      There are plenty of people who travel more than 20 miles just for their daily commute!
      I understand wanting to work close to home, or not wanting to spend any nights away (maybe they have small children, or pets), but in that case maybe jobs that specifically state “some travel” aren’t the best fit?
      It seems like she thought that was negotiable, and when she realised it wasn’t then at least she owned the dealbreaker and withdrew from the process. Imagine if she’d been hired and then 4 months later refused to travel to head office, or a major client.

  44. Veryanon*

    Somehow I missed the original post, which is unfortunate because I used to work in recruiting and had a LOT of weird experiences. Some of my favorite include:
    *the candidate who, about 3 minutes into the interview, asked me to pray with him and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior
    *the candidate who asked me on a date DURING THE INTERVIEW and when I said was married, he said “…Happily?”
    *I was interviewing candidates for an executive assistant position and was about 7 m0nths pregnant at the time. When I walked out to the lobby to greet a particular candidate, she screamed, at the top of her lungs, “OH MY GOD YOU’RE PREGNANT!!!!!” and proceeded to rush across the lobby and place her hands on my belly. What the actual f***.
    *the candidate who asked if she could have some of my lunch (also happened while I was pregnant; I wouldn’t typically eat during an interview but was I having issues with blood sugar and my doctor advised me to eat frequently)
    *the candidate who told me I looked like the Madonna (also happened when I was pregnant). He did not mean Madonna the pop star, but was referring to Jesus’ mother.
    I could go on, as this is just a small sampling. Wow.

    1. Agile Phalanges*

      Who knew being an interviewer while pregnant could be so fraught? And I thought interviewing for jobs while pregnant was rough…

      1. BubbleTea*

        Pregnancy makes people do weird things (other people, I mean, not the pregnant one). I mentioned my pregnancy while arranging a service call for a home appliance repair, as it was relevant (can’t lift an object that is obstructing access, which I would normally move before they came) and the woman I was talking to just sort of lost her mind in delight. It was baffling but quite sweet. It was as though I was the first pregnant person ever to exist, except that she kept saying “oh I just love it when people tell me they’re pregnant, you have made my day!” Very odd but completely harmless, I was glad to have brightened her day with my uterus!

        1. Double A*

          Oh, it can also make the pregnant person do strange things (I can say this as a 39 weeks pregnant person who may weep at all Disney songs right now. No I don’t feel sad, I am just sobbing).

      2. Magenta*

        People get very odd around pregnancy.
        When I announced my pregnancy at work one person asked how it happened and another asked if it was planned.

  45. So Casual*

    I once interviewed a guy for a peer role on our small team. His first round had been with my boss and he was scheduled to meet with me and another peer. He had his feet up on the conference table when I walked in, leaning back with his hands behind his head. He didn’t move when I came in (most people would have stood up and shook hands) and I didn’t know what to say, so I started out asking if he had any questions about the role. He told me that he knew everything about my job and would be great at it, so no questions. My colleague had a similar experience. Turns out my boss had been sort of mentoring this guy for a few years, so he thought he was a shoe in for the job. He wasn’t hired.

  46. Aitch Arr*

    I had a candidate say that his role model was Barney Stinson. Um… not sure I’d brag about that, my dude.

  47. velvet*

    All-day interview (higher ed), candidate is hitting all the marks and making a great impression. Final meeting is with the search committee, final question was, “If offered the job, when might you be able to start?” A softball! there’s no wrong answer! Except for his: “I’m really pissed off at my bitch of a boss, so how about tomorrow?” I could see the blood drain out of all the committee members’ faces.

  48. Essess*

    I was interviewing a candidate for a position in our company and the candidate talked about how hard it was to find a parking space right outside (there are parking ramps on a nearby block so it’s not that impossible to park) and then bragged that he used his wife’s handicapped parking permit that was in the car in order to be able to get a space right out front of the office. The fact that he was bragging to me about breaking the law and illegally using someone else’s permit made me so mad that I made sure to tell HR that I wouldn’t want to work with that candidate. Every employee has to sign an ethics pledge every year to obey all laws and I take that seriously.

  49. HereKittyKitty*

    Me and my manager interviewed people for a blog writing role. My manager wanted to give everyone a good start so before the interview she linked them to our blog, our learning center and any other relevant information for them to go over before the interview.

    When it came to interviewing, we had a few questions that were directly related to our blog as well as some fun questions and behavioral questions. When we asked one candidate blog-related questions she told us she hadn’t read any of it. She also had no questions for us and in general, just wasn’t speaking much. We had her do a quick little outline test and then sent her on her way.

    A few weeks later she left a Glassdoor review saying me and my manager were mean women in the interview and she didn’t want to work with us anyway lol Like girl, it was clear you didn’t prepare at all for this interview, why did you expect to get the job???

  50. Jay*

    When I was starting a private practice years ago, we interviewed for an office assistant position. The first candidate was well-qualified, organized, professional, and generally delightful. We almost offered her the job then and there, but decided we would complete the other interviews we had scheduled. The second candidate was about five minutes late, inappropriately dressed (spaghetti straps, visible bra, very short skirt, combat boots – for a patient-facing role in a doctor’s office) and told us she’d left her previous job because her manager “thought she could tell me what to do.” Um, well, yeah. We thanked her for coming, showed her to the door, and hired the first woman.

  51. Elizabeth West*

    I have some:

    1. My first boss at OldExjob, the HR manager, scheduled an interview with this youngish guy—I don’t remember what position it was for. She said when he saw he would be talking to her (a woman) and not one of the male managers, he ROLLED HIS EYES.

    2. One time, I met with these two women to interview for a city job. For some dumb reason, I started coughing and could not stop until one of the women got me a cup of water. After that, I was able to continue, but they both looked at me as though I were some kind of bug. Needless to say, I did not get the job (and I made it a habit to take a water bottle with me to every interview after that). Bullet dodged, I guess!

    3. *Ahem!* years ago when I was in music school, I went to a so-called staffing agency I saw in the paper to apply for part-time work. The agency woman gave me a paper application that asked for my SS number and birthdate, among other invasive questions (I thought that was weird, but I was only 19 or 20, so what did I know). When I finished it and handed it to her, she then demanded $1000 for their services.

    I said hell no; I did not have $1000, and I refused to leave until she gave me back the application because I did not want to leave my personal information with her. She argued with me that it was their property, but I said no, you aren’t doing anything, so you don’t need it. Finally, she gave in and returned it. I tore it up right in her face and took the pieces with me as I walked out the door.

  52. Kiki*

    This is not as egregious as some, but I had a candidate who really struggled with a basic mechanical task (putting a hard drive into a drive sled). This isn’t something I would necessarily expect an entry-level person applying for an IT job to have done, but if you have any kind of mechanical aptitude it isn’t hard: you’re basically putting a rectangular prism into a U-shaped piece of metal. There are four possible configurations, and the screw holes only match in the correct alignment.

    The candidate tried… and tried… and tried… Even after I was giving prompting like “We need the connectors to be on this end so they can plug in” he was finding every wrong way to do it, multiple times, without getting the right one. And when I finally helped him get it in properly, he was so clumsy with the screwdriver that I had to restrain myself from grabbing it out of his hand by reminding myself that the hard drives cost less than $100, and if he dropped one we could just buy a replacement.

    At this point I can’t recall if the job posting clearly stated that being able to wield a screwdriver was an important criteria for the position, but we interviewers were all very aware of it (and would screen for it with questions like “Tell me about a time when you built something”).

    One of my coworkers did point out that his own spacial reasoning went out the window when he was under stress, and maybe this happened to the candidate, too — but we needed someone with spacial reasoning, and it wasn’t a gamble we were comfortable making.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Oh screwdrivers – and did you know they have names too?

      I was 19 and fixing something at a college job – asked the three guys on shift with me to get me a Phillips Screwdriver. The look of “what foreign language are you speaking” that came to their faces was stunning (these guys were like 10 years older than me – and male – figured it was a no brainer). I ended up having to go find one myself.

  53. Grim*

    My 1st Tech job was as a electronic’s technician for a small start up company and we had one electrical engineer at the company. He asked me to be the first person to interview a candidate for the digital engineer position.

    He showed up looking like he’d just changed the oil on his car; greasy shirt, dirty hands and fingernails. He also brought a book with him on digital circuit design and proudly said he was the author.

    Wow! I thought to myself; this guy must really know his digital circuit design theory, so I asked him a question I just had on a test from school 3 months before. I asked him to design an exclusive nor gate just using nand gates. He looked at me very puzzled and said why would you do that? I told him that integrated circuit company’s work exclusively with nand gates to design other gates.

    I gave him a pen and a paper and asked him if he’d like to give it a try. He just sat there and said, “no I don’t wanna try, ask me another question.” I told he that was all I had for him and asked if he had any questions for me. He said he didn’t have any questions for “just a technician”. I said ok, stood up and left the room with 20 minutes to go.

    He didn’t get the job and he was shown the door once our Electrical engineer saw his appearance.

  54. Crommulent*

    I once got a resume that just listed very grandiose titles, but had no description of duties, dates of employment, and every company was listed as “confidential.” Was this a spy reentering the workforce?! Morbidly fascinated I opened the cover letter to find one sentence: “If you feel you really need an explanation of these roles, you can contact me directly.” Followed by the candidate’s contact info. I did not need an explanation, the application told me everything I needed to know.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I’ve gotten some like that! Applications with a lot of “I’ll tell you at the interview”, “I’ll explain more when we talk”, or once even “I don’t want to give you a full answer, so we’ll have something to talk about later”. The time to interest me is now, not later!

      And I really hope your person was a spy because that would be hilarious.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        No. An actual spy will have an actual job description. Probably vetted word for word by a committee and phrased an a maddeningly vague manner (“investigated algorithmic solutions to numerical problems” was the one a friend gave me after a summer internship with the NSA). Possibly completely fictional (but with several ironclad references who will back it up in every detail). But they are gonna have one.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I interviewed someone who refused to answer any behavioral type questions because of confidentiality. Okay, but I’m not asking you to explain how you designed a bomb, I just want to know how you handled disagreements with the other bomb builders.

  55. Shellery*

    Oh my goodness this thread made me think of the stupidest thing I’ve ever said during an interview about 10 years ago. I told them that I didn’t like human DNA. It was for a Wildlife disease DNA analysis position. My brain was trying to describe why I left my human DNA job, which was really just running paternity tests and not at all fulfilling or exciting, but it was a complete brain fart moment. So yes, I told a DNA job I didn’t like DNA. Did not get a second interview, understandably.

    I’m much better at being prepared with good answers now, and am thankful for this site!

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      HA! You’re reminding me of some satirical posters a lab I worked in had, advertising “DNA-Free Food!”

  56. ZebraNeighbor*

    At a giant tech company, I checked in and waited over an hour for my interview. Phoned the agency, asked the front desk person, did everything I could. Eventually, the agency called and asked why I didn’t show up. I went BACK to the front desk and they sent me through as though I had just showed up. The manager I would be working for wasn’t even there. I rescheduled, and they did hire me. Found out after signing all the paperwork that the 6-month contract-to-hire had changed to 3 months, and they laid me off at the end.
    Smaller tech company, I waited an hour and a half while the department had an inconsequential meeting. They didn’t hire me then, but called me back a month later after realizing that the person they hired was not as good.
    Why are interviewers so often running late?

  57. Unwise*

    Are you all subscribing to Inc? Lately every time I click on a link, I’m asked to subscribe in order to read the article. I was curious seeing the amount of comments on this post.

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      Inc gives a certain amount of free articles per month, after which you need to subscribe to access.
      I only use it for AAM articles and haven’t ever hit the limit, but if you are reading more extensively it could be that you’ve hit your free article cap.

      1. Unwise*

        I only read for Ask a Manager and I haven’t been able to read anything since March. I’m not getting the free articles reset unfortunately.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      Removed. Please do not post ways to get around the paywall — i.e., to get around me being paid for my work. – Alison

  58. Duh*

    Question 7. Why do you want to work for ABC Inc?
    I need a job.
    (skipping the bulk of questions) Thanks for your time. I’ll get back to you soon.

  59. R Fan*

    Zoom interviews must have led to weird interviews recent days.
    We had one for a professional position, with male candidate being interviewed by two women. He right of the bat made a joke about being pant less.

  60. Rain*

    I wasn’t part of the interview process, but I worked at a law firm where the resumes happened to come across my desk. In one, the applicant listed his skills, which included “attention to detail.” He’d spelled the name of the city where he lived wrong (it was Sacramento, so not a hard one). Another included his boxing bill (stats and a picture of him in his gloves and shorts). His whole cover letter and resume were nothing but sports metaphors…..for a job at a law firm.
    My favorite was the guy who, in his list of skills, included “needs analysis.” Because who doesn’t?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Oh dear. Needs Analysis actually is a skill in some industries. Not law, apparently, but it’s definitely a real thing.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Yup! It might have taken me a second, but that is indeed an important skill.

    2. 1234*

      The boxing guy, any chance your law firm represented sports clients or handled entertainment law? And even then that’s a stretch.

    3. Artemesia*

      I served on a committee to hire the C level accounting position and one of the pretty well qualified applicants misspelled the name of the organization throughout his application materials. I encouraged the committee to not invite him in (costly flying people in and we could only bring 3). They all thought it was petty to exclude him for a mere typo — I said it wasn’t a typo it was consistent and used several times and suggests lack of attention to detail and lack of preparation –not things you want in the finance guy. We interviewed him — he was a total flake who wanted to talk about his great pleasure in driving – as in getting in a car and just driving for hundreds of miles for the pure pleasure of it. Knew nothing about the organization (duh) and gave lame answers to questions. I may have gloated but I didn’t say ‘I told you so.’

      1. Kevin Sours*

        As a programmer I can assure you that if I misspell something there is a high probability that it is consistently misspelled throughout the entire document. I am *very* consistent in my spelling.

  61. LP*

    My husband recently interviewed someone for an HVAC Technician role that told him “my dad wants me to get a job on the books”. He was not super young but we were guessing maybe he still lives at home.

    My favorite though was his answer to “What part of your job do you like the most?” His answer “Getting paid”

    And he didn’t have a license which doesn’t work when you have to travel to and from people’s homes multiple times a day. But he drove to the interview and didn’t see why he would need a license to drive a work vehicle.

  62. rachelee8801*

    The whole time I was reading the Finger Guns example, I was thinking about Todd Packer from The Office.

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