bombing an interview: let’s discuss

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

I bombed an interview today. Like seriously bombed, worst interview of my life. My brain just turned off. Could you request stories of other humiliating interviews so I don’t feel so alone? I went straight home and got into bed and right now I am feeling like I might never come out. Commiseration might help.

Ask and you shall receive.

Three of my favorite mortifying interview moments that have been shared here over the years:

  • “I was interviewing for basically a dream job and was asked, ‘What accomplishment are you most proud of?’ I proceeded talked about how proud I was for maintaining a healthy long term relationship. The interviewers didn’t push back, but they did seem awkward. I obviously did not get the position.”
  • “Phone interview for a bank role. They asked about how I would handle confidential information. I gave examples of experience I had with HIPAA info and handling private information and then I blurted out, ‘But ya know, everyone gossips!’ I have no idea why I said that! I’m not a gossipy person! I think I was trying to say something funny or friendly or whatever to connect to the interviewer.”
  • “I once went to an interview where they asked for an example of a time I’d resolved conflict – and I responded with a terrible laugh and said, ‘Well, I’ve caused some trouble.’”

Readers, let’s hear about your own bombed interviews and other job search mortifications in the comments.

{ 1,044 comments… read them below }

  1. my cat is prettier than me*

    I used the term “job-sona” in an interview once. I don’t know what I was thinking.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I love it too although people will be like ‘ you aren’t authentic at work? SHOCK’

      1. Hlao-roo*

        People might colloquially talk about their work-persona/job-persona (or work-sona/job-sona) with friends, coworkers they know well, or internet strangers on AAM. But it’s not usually named explicitly during job interviews (you might say “I have great customer-service skills” but not “my work-persona loves helping customers”) and using the slang “job-sona” over “job-persona” adds an extra level of cringe.

          1. Wolf*

            Am a furry, can confirm: we joke about roleplaying our worksonas. A lot. I’ve seen character reference sheets like “this is my worksona John, he likes early mornings, usually wears a sweater vest, and his favourite accessory is a coffee mug”.

  2. Viki*

    When asked a (completely stupid question) about how I would react if I woke up suddenly in a cage with a tiger, I asked if the tiger was alive.

    This wasn’t the right line of questioning as per the interviewer’s surprised expression.

    When asked to elaborate, I said “If it’s dead, cry but no real panic. It’s alive, cry and panic and die.”

    In hindsight, I stand by the answer and it was a stupid interview but I did not get the job I was over qualified for and was stuck working at minimum wage part time in a non-profit archive for longer, as I tried desperately to pivot my career

    1. Roobidy*

      I think it shows initiative :D you needed context, weren’t afraid to ask for clarification before giving an informed answer XD

      1. MigraineMonth*

        In computer programming technical interviews, you lose points during interviews if you *don’t* ask clarifying questions. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at problem solving if you’re solving the wrong problem!

        Obviously, whether or not the tiger is alive is critical in making sure you’re understanding the context!

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Right? Alive and awake are two critical pieces of information when figuring out your options. Also, is there a door, are you near it, do you know if it’s locked or do you need to find out?

          Also, can I pet the kitty?

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            How old is the tiger? There’s a big difference between a cub and an adult. Has the tiger been fed recently? Is anything else in the cage? How big is the cage?

            1. Never Boring*

              I studied in Siberia in 1995, a period of great economic dislocation in Russia. The scariest part of the whole program was a visit to the Novosibirsk Zoo, where I witnessed a young woman whose sole piece of protective equipment was a wooden stick walk into the tiger’s cage to feed it BREAD. The tiger did not look pleased.

          2. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

            I started thinking of further clarifying questions I would ask in this interview scenario and realized I was just Dungeons-and-Dragonsing my way through it:

            “What is the condition of the tiger? Has the tiger noticed me yet? What can I perceive outside of the cage? Can I see the door to the cage from where I’m sitting? Can I hear or see the presence of anyone else outside the cage? Does the cage appear to be locked or only shut? Is the tiger between me and the door to the cage? Okay, given that knowledge and my Strength and Dexterity (not good), I…”

              1. helper_monkey*

                My husband claims I have the ability to cast Animal Friendship in real life…. Big animal nerd as well as rpg nerd. Honestly I got immediately excited about how I could answer this question. I also have an answer for “Someone has gifted you an elephant. You can’t sell or give away the elephant. What do you do?”

                1. Jack*

                  My wife, an avid follower of this site, wants me to share what I shared with her when she showed me this thread. I’ll post a link, but if it doesn’t come through, just search for “I Do Not Want a Mastodon 1 page RPG”.

                  Thank you for your time and pachydermal consideration.

                2. amoeba*

                  I mean, obviously I’d have to give up my life here and move somewhere elephant-friendly (India?) and live there happily ever after with my new friend!

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              How big is the cage? Can you get through the wire squares while the tiger stays inside? (some of us are relatively smaller people and can squeeze through stuff if very highly motivated). Have I known the tiger since kittenhood? Do I have a large piece of meat to throw at the tiger to distract it?

        2. The New Wanderer*

          The interviewer’s flummoxed response shows that the question in no way was intended to ascertain whether the candidate could engage that kind of critical thinking, and was just a pointless what-if question that adds nothing to the process.

          I love Viki’s response, and I think it would have been interesting to continue asking clarifying answers until that interviewer decided never to use that question again.
          Is the cage locked?
          Do I have the key?
          Is there someone outside the cage with the key?
          Is the tiger my pet?
          Am I in a magic act and there’s a trapdoor under me?
          Is this a “Life of Pi” situation?

          1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

            Always important to ascertain if you’re in a “Life of Pi” situation. Or more basically, a “Calvin and Hobbes” situation.

            “Is the tiger real or imaginary?”

            “Yes.”

            1. MsM*

              Tuna fish sandwiches and philosophical discussions seem like they’d be an ideal way to resolve the situation.

              1. Merci Dee*

                And also a trip down a insanely steep and obstacle-ridden hillside on your wagon or your sled, depending on the time of year. Maybe also an expedition to some far-off destination (Yukon Ho!)

        3. Lana Kane*

          Yes, in my line of work we get similar questions and the idea is how you think it through. Whether it’s alive or dead would be relevant!

        1. Mr. Shark*

          That’s what I was thinking. Is the tiger in a box, and if so, do you really know if the tiger is there? :)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I’d have been mortified to be a part of an interview where someone asked a candidate a question that dumb, but I think the answer provided to it is excellent! Asking clarifying questions is nearly always a positive for me.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This seems a bit … extreme … for most job interviews other than that of zoo keeper. I mean, what other answers has the interviewer gotten?

      1. EmF*

        Even zookeepers take great pains never to be in a cage with a tiger!

        Source: my sister, a zookeeper, whose large carnivore pals are always locked into their indoor space (via a two-door airlock) before cleaning and maintenance is done on their outdoor space, and vice versa. Veterinary work is done by large groups in very, very controlled conditions.

        Watching the Jurassic Park movies with her is great fun.

    3. SJ*

      you are right to stand by this answer! it’s perfectly sensible and much better than the question deserved.

    4. SarahKay*

      I’m sorry the interview was not successful, but honestly I think your answer was both accurate and hilarious.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        “Ms. Anders would you describe your idea of a perfect world” (??!)

        I blurted out, “Men would need to pass a polygraph and a psych evaluation in order to qualify for Viagra!”
        I stand by it, but then I added “Of course I’d write the test myself.”

        Why shoot yourself in only ONE foot when you obviously have a spare in your mouth?

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha! This reminds me of a women’s group meeting I was in several years ago and somehow the conversation turned to Viagra. I don’t know how she thinks Viagra works, but one of the elderly ladies shouted out, “I don’t think they [men] should be going around with those things hard all the time!” and I still frequently laugh about that.

          1. Seashell*

            The ads do suggest medical treatment if that state lasts for 4 hours, so that may have given her the idea.

    5. nm*

      Nah you were in the right here. Assuming you weren’t applying to be a tiger-wrangler, this is far more good sense and reason than that question deserves.

    6. ecnaseener*

      LMAO that’s very funny but I agree, questioning the starting assumptions would be an asset in many jobs!

    7. Minerva*

      Your response to such an absurd question was perfect from beginning to end. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      “I would pretend to be a head of broccoli. And I would convey to the tiger that I knew how to get us some steaks, we needed to stick together.”

    9. Quokka*

      Yeah I would have so many questions before I could answer this. But partway through asking them I would probably ask why it hadn’t eaten me while I was asleep, is it also asleep… so I actually think your answer was incredibly astute. They probably figured you would see through too much of their BS if they hired you.

      FWIW – fairly certain if I asked some of my students this question, their response would automatically assume they had some kind of weapon to hand. Or that they would tackle/wrestle it. Love that teenage boy confidence lol!

      1. Office Gumby*

        “They probably figured you would see through too much of their BS if they hired you.”

        Oh. I think this is one of the reasons I didn’t get the last job I applied for. I’m shifting careers from one that’s highly analytical problem-solving into one that’s… not so much. I was hit up with three extremely vague (at least, for my profession) questions. When I first saw these questions, they may have been waving yellow flags. I asked for clarification during the interview (how do you define “quick”? Ten seconds, ten minutes, ten hours?) and they said, “Oh, whatever you think it is.” Dude. My current position relies on accuracy. This isn’t helping.

        Another question asked about when “things get difficult and hard to solve.” Yeah. In my current industry, we call that a Tuesday. Did they even read my resume?

        Ultimately, every answer I had boiled down to “We have a procedure for that. Even for the unexpected, we have a procedure as our job is to expect the unexpected.”

        I didn’t get the job, and I couldn’t figure out why. I had chalked it up to a mindless job surrounded by mindless people. But maybe they realised I would see through their BS?

    10. Shirley Keeldar*

      The only better response to this question would have been: “So, is this a situation that comes up frequently in this job?”

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        “What would you do if you woke up next to your immediate supervisor? How about if you’re both locked in a cage?”

        I dunno, rethink all my life choices that led me to this moment?

    11. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Dude. You Jedi focused and blew up their Death Star question.
      They were asking something completely absurd not because there is a correct answer, but because they want to make sure candidates feel awkward and insecure when they leave, not “wow, I crushed that!” so that when you are offered the job, you will feel weirdly grateful.

      I say this because they did not justify it in anyway. “Hey, we found an off the wall question that helps us determine X in a candidate.”

      Them, “answer this absurd situation.”
      OP: “I’d need the following data…”
      Them: “not like that.”

      1. stratospherica*

        Yeah, if I’m not allowed to ask clarifying questions, then I’m going to out-absurd them. I simply reduce the depth of my body to that of paper and slide through the cage bars, then reconstitute myself on the outside. I am no longer in the cage with the tiger.

    12. iglwif*

      That’s a bizarre question! But also I have no idea how anyone could answer it without knowing whether the tiger is dead or alive, and if alive, whether it’s asleep or awake. That’s the first clarifying question I would ask, too.

      1. kalli*

        “Look at tiger; ascertain whether it is awake or asleep, its condition and likely strength. Assess surroundings; look for door/gate, does tiger have a water source, does tiger have toys, do I have access to protective gear or a means to call for help? Are people available?. Form plan. Execute plan.”

        If you’re locked in a room with a tiger and they don’t explicitly say that there’s someone there, the idea that you can just ask someone if the tiger is awake instead of looking for yourself to see if the tigers eyes are open might well indicate helplessness if someone isn’t used to that particular logic game.

    13. DivergentStitches*

      Did the tiger have Murder Mittens or was it declawed? Do you pspsps at it or what? We need to know these things!

      1. NAL-NYL*

        My best guess is “calmly assess the situation and inventory my resources” because they want to know if you keep a clear head in a crisis, but they could have asked how you would handle a work crisis

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      That’s a completely sane and truthful answer! Who was your interviewer, Frank Stockton?

    15. The dark months*

      Wait, why is no one asking why you woke up in a tigers cage? What happened before you fell asleep? Did you choose to enter the cage and sleep with beside said tiger? Was the tiger introduced after you fell asleep? Is this something that happens often at this job? Why are you in a cage at all?!?

    16. Numbat*

      I like your grasp on reality. it would be a red flag to me if someone maintained they could make friends with the tiger and escape together or some nonsense.

    17. Artemesia*

      Seems right to me. I once walked down stairs in the condo to the hall to the back parking lot and coiled by the apartment door on my right was an enormous rattlesnake. that question ‘Is it alive’ is very relevant to the situation. I called the super who arrived with a rifle — I booked it out of there, the term ‘ricochet’ exploding in my brain. Turns out it was dead and had been placed by the cop’s door by a disgruntled skel. Alive or dead is the first question in problem solving in this kind of case.

    18. Marvel*

      I am losing it at this one because I am exactly the type of person who would answer the question that way. You’re not alone.

    19. SlothLover*

      This reminds me of a riddle I’ve heard…

      There are three doors, and you must go through one of them. Behind door 1 is a flaming inferno. Behind door two is a lion that hasn’t eaten in a year. Behind door 3 is a 10,000 foot drop. Which door do you choose?

      And the answer is door two, because if the lion hasn’t eaten for a year, its dead. So that is a perfectly logical follow-up question!

    20. Windsorite*

      Is this a member of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, and are we in a batting cage? In that case I would ask for an autograph and a ride home.

  3. Jake*

    I showed up to an interview with s suit and white collared shirt underneath. my interview insisted on me taking the suit jacket off for lunch.

    You could definitely see through the shirt.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      This honestly seems to be a generational/lack of experience thing. Generational because older generations wearing an undershirt was more just what you did. My dad wears them under everything – dress shirts, polos, etc. Lack of experience because until you don’t wear the undershirt and have the realization that it’s see-through, you won’t think about it.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        It could be, but my Boomer mom used to insist that (women’s) dress shirts were supposed to be somewhat sheer and it’s okay that the outline of my bra would be visible. She worked outside the house for years in business casual environments! To this day I do not understand how she didn’t know about camisoles, but I always used/use them.

        1. Kate*

          I definitely feel like that was normal for that generation! You can tell because sometimes the front of older blouses is double lined, but the back isn’t = bra TOTALLY visible. So weird to me!

          Also that’s the generation who freaked out at their 90’s daughters wearing tank tops with visible bra straps lmao

          1. celestial seasonings*

            Huh! Today I learned. In the past when I’ve noticed someone wearing a shirt like this, I just assumed they didn’t realize it was visible, and I felt second-hand embarrassment for them… it never occurred to me it might be intentional.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I introduced my mum to the concept of bras which are closer to your fleshtone than bright white, and her mind was blown.

          1. Harper*

            Yes! I didn’t know about this until well into adulthood, and I’ve bought very few white bras since then!

          2. Moda Comfort*

            The visible bright white of women’s foundation garments, for a certain generation, signaled that you were a “good girl” who wore the correct foundation garments. Show through was a feature, not a bug.

            1. Cyndi*

              I never realized this and many things make more sense to me now! I (35yo) don’t think I’ve owned a white bra since high school; I don’t think there’s any color top I would rather wear a white bra under than a skin-tone one, and I layer a camisole under almost everything anyway.

          3. Alex*

            When I was in high school, I was having a conversation with a Black girl in my class about white pants, and she said she’d have to wear black underwear, and my mind was BLOWN because, as a white person, I’d always selected white underwear/thought that was what you did, when you wore light clothing. I’d erroneously thought the purpose was to match the CLOTHES, not your skin!! I was so confused until she kindly explained it to me lol.

            1. TechWorker*

              I had the same realisation when my friend told me her school uniform (in Trinidad) was white blouse, black bra.

          4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Every bra my mom had was bright white. I didn’t know there were other ones until… probably a few years past coming to the US, so my early 30s.

        3. ferrina*

          I definitely didn’t know the proper use of camisoles for years. It took a long time for me to figure out the proper look in a business environment. I tried, but I had no money to buy a proper wardrobe and no upbringing that would help me understand these things. I tried, but visible bra straps were a constant struggle, as were semi-sheer shirts or clothes that rode up.

          I finally got it figured out….but not until after I had discovered the joys of remote work.

          1. Emily*

            mid-career and am now reeling – what is the correct use of camisoles and how do you avoid ride up?!

            1. Jackalope*

              I don’t know if this is what ferrina was going for, but I’ve seen people wearing them as a sort of undershirt that’s acceptable to have showing. So for example if you have a top that’s more low-cut than you want to wear in a specific situation (work being an obvious potential example), then you can wear a camisole underneath with maybe a lacy bit at the top and it looks like part of an outfit instead of part of your underwear. They can also be used as a sort of undershirt under a slightly sheer top (although that’s less likely to be something you’d wear at work), again to avoid the look of, “Hey, her undergarments are showing!” I’d add a final example although this isn’t specific to work: I find them really nice if I’m going to be somewhere particularly cold, since they add a full layer instead of just what a bra covers.

              I’ve found that if I get camisoles that are a touch on the long side I can tuck them in more firmly and they tend to stay. I’ve sometimes tucked them into my underwear and then tucked my “main” shirt into my pants, although just going for slightly longer camisoles tends to work too.

        4. SpaceySteph*

          Since the birth of my oldest, I wear nursing tanks with built in bras rather than bras and/or camisoles. I haven’t breastfed in a year (2 more kids later) I just got used to them through the years of pumping at work. BUT all of mine are black, which has been fine for years until I bought a light purple shirt a couple weeks ago and it looked fine in my bedroom mirror but under the work fluorescent lighting I realized you could see my ENTIRE tank top through it. So, yeah, now I have one skin-tone camisole in my arsenal too.

      1. Smithy*

        In general I agree, however I do think that some of these “insistence” moments often come from a place of someone believing that their sharing insight on niche manners that are supposed to make people more comfortable in a specific situation.

        I was once at a Belgian consulate event – so business formal – in a part of the world that was hot, and when the Consul General said that beginning in June it was acceptable to not wear a tie for evening events. At this point, about 5 guys immediately took their ties off, and should any of that staff had wanted to keep theirs on (stain under the tie, not so bothered by the heat, etc.) – the peer pressure alone might have made them feel like they should take it off.

        As a woman, I’ve certainly misjudged dressing for a work event with the weather – and have been encouraged to take off a top layer to be more comfortable. When the reality is I’ve already pitted through the bottom layer, or the bottom layer is a tank top as opposed to a sleeveless top, or some other reason I’m going to continue to wilt while dressed to warmly. I think also as a woman, if you insist on staying covered – at some point people will assume modesty issues might be at play…..but that’s where I’ve found the vibes often come from.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        I think they meant well but approached it wrong. They likely thought OP was refusing to take the jacket off solely because they thought it was more professional, and interviewer was trying to put them at east like “we won’t deduct points if you get comfortable to eat” but the power imbalance is such that it felt like an order. They should have mentioned it one time and if OP refused just moved on. Eating one lunch in a suit jacket isn’t gonna kill anyone.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Oh I’ll add as a woman I wear a lot of sleeveless shirts because they are comfortable, but for an interview would wear a jacket or camisole to cover my upper arms since sometimes sleeveless is considered too casual. And I now remember interviewing for my first job out of college on a warm spring day in Houston (where a warm spring day is like 90 degrees F) and we walked outside between buildings and I was definitely sweating but still didnt take my jacket off because I wanted to appear professional (and by then probably had visible sweat marks on my shirt)

          1. Dell*

            this! I want the jacket to cover my sweat marks (I have a large chest and wide shoulders so shirts usually fit tight in the pits) and also to cover my tattoos and bruises from my after-work hobbies.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think that’s on the interviewer. They shouldn’t be invested in whether you’re wearing a jacket or not.

    3. House On The Rock*

      I agree with others who say you may have dodged a bullet. Any interviewer who tries to dictate what garments you keep on (especially during the initial meeting!) has some weird ideas about what they can and can’t ask employees to do.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      People are saying you needed an undershirt. You probably did. You also need to be allowed to wear your damned jacket. Why was leaving it on it a deal breaker?
      “I want you to be comfortable but it has to be my way.”

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Why was the interviewer so insistent that you take your suit jacket off?? Did you have to chase down your entree across a field or something?

  4. AnonTriLingual*

    I speak English, Polish and Russian and have had several interviews over the course of my working life where I answered the question in the wrong language. And then wondered why they were looking at me blankly!

    1. Other Alice*

      If it helps, I did worse. We were in France and I was informally translating for the other people I was with, who only spoke English. On the last evening, the waiter at the restaurant addressed us in English and I proceeded to translate into French for the group, who was very confused. It took me several long moments to realise what was going on.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        My dad does this only he translates from German (his native language) into German. Using the exact same words. It’s fascinating.

        1. KeinName*

          Did that once too. Translated a guided tour from German to English when suddenly the tour guide switched to English herself and I just contributed ‚translating‘. So just repeating what she said basically. Very embarrassing.

      2. Jackalope*

        Just got back from a trip to France where I was taking my English-speaking only husband to meet some French-speaking only family members. I had a number of situations like that happen! And there were other things that were culturally specific that I normally can separate out without thought that I kept messing up (like my husband got confused when I told him that we were staying on the first floor when it’s what in the US we would call the second floor. He asked me why I’d told him the wrong floor and I stared at him blankly and said, “I cannot understand US floor counting right now.”

        1. ferrina*

          “I cannot understand US floor counting right now”

          This is an incredibly funny phrases and also I feel this SO MUCH

          1. Jackalope*

            I’ve read that people who are multilingual will often do a significant amount of code switching when switching languages, since they tend to operate in different cultural milieus in their different languages. Some of those things seem obvious and some of them aren’t, but there are so many tiny, subtle details that you don’t consciously realize, and they can trip you up if you’re switching back and forth a lot in a short period of time. Given that I was feeling emotional (since we were getting ready to leave), and was super tired (and, I discovered the next day, was also in the process of developing COVID), I’m not surprised that my brain threw up its hands in the air and said, “What more do you want from me??”

        2. Ms_Meercat*

          Oh man, this so many times. I’m German but live/work in a Spanish-speaking country in Spanish (and used to live in the UK). Had UK friends visit recently and I spoke to them both in German and in Spanish at one point or another – but like for an extended moment and only their non-responsiveness and blank faces alerted me to the fact, that no, this wasn’t English.
          I also struggle with times – half 1 in the UK is 1.30, but half 1 in German is 12.30. I learned the hard way (almost missing a flight in Austria with an Irish colleague) to always ask for clarification :)
          (My friends at work also note that when I come back from holidays, my accent is much stronger for the first week or so)

      3. tamarack etc.*

        Translation brain growing autonomous and going off in some *very odd* direction is something everyone who has ever worked even tangentially in translation has experienced! I think when I lived in France I once translated from English to English … for English speakers.

      4. allathian*

        I grew up in a bilingual family with Finnish and Swedish as my first languages. We lived in the UK when I was 12-13 and there I learned English (I switched to American spelling and vocabulary when I went online in the early 1990s). When we returned from the UK, we stayed with some family friends in Denmark for a month. We’d always spoken Finnish with our mom and Swedish with our dad, and routinely switched languages when we looked from one to the other, often mid-sentence. Because our parents understood us regardless, we were completely unaware of this. Our Danish hosts more or less understood us when we spoke Swedish, but they were completely confused by the Finnish, and that’s when I first became aware of the linguistic habits in our family. I made a conscious effort to stop switching languages mid-sentence during our visit, and it worked.

        I took French in middle school and high school, and then I added Spanish to my language palette when I went to college. At college I also continued with French, and spent 6 months (two trimesters) as an exchange student there. After about 3 months there, I went on a school trip to London, and after having been completely immersed in French for so long, I more than once spoke French in restaurants and shops. It took me a surprisingly long time to realize my mistake, and when I did I was mortified.

    2. Jack Russell Terrier*

      My Hungarian father, who spoke several languages impeccably, was coming out of a seizure. The paramedics started asking him the standard questions, only he replied in Hungarian. My mother asked him to speak English. He looked at her like she was barmy and said in consternation – in English – of course I’m speaking English!!

      1. FoxyDog*

        That reminds me of a time when I picked my friend up at the airport. She had been visiting her home country of Slovenia, and at some point on the way home slipped back into speaking Slovenian. The tone and cadence of her speech was the same, so I didn’t get why I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying – I thought I was just distracted by driving and missed it. I asked her to repeat herself three times before either of us realized she wasn’t speaking English.

    3. Brooklyn*

      I have also done this. I grew up in, currently live in, and have only ever worked in the US. I had a set of interviews at one place, and one of the interviewers saw French on my resume and very casually, at the end of their interview, chatted in French with me about visiting France. Very normal, very friendly, everything is great. The next interviewer comes in and my dumb brain knows it needs to switch languages, and short-circuits straight to Russian. I was like 3 sentences into the usual “Tell us about yourself” answer when it hit me.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        I have done this too – it’s a weird thing

        I speak English, Spanish, a little bit of ASL and even less German. I went into a shop and the assistant asked if I needed help in German. I answered “No, thank you kindly,” in the correct language. Then, she asked me something else, and my brain glitched, did a quick rummage around in the “Not That Language, The Other Language” bucket and one hand floated up for ASL emphasis while I replied in Spanish.

        I left the shop VERY quickly.

        1. lin*

          Not an interview, but on a work trip, I once code-switched my way to confusion by answering a shopkeeper in a terrible mixture of Mandarin, Fulani (a widely-spoken West African language), and French. We were in a local shop in a majority-Fulani area, in a Francophone country… and the shop owner was Chinese. As an American, I think both of us expected English to be our common language. I’ve never mixed those three up quite the same way before or since but now it’s a fun story about cultures colliding!

      2. Jackalope*

        I had just moved to my 3rd country, and was just barely starting to learn the new language. I was animatedly sharing a story in English with my housemate, who was a native of the country I’d just moved to. She asked me partway through my story if I could switch to the new language to get some practice. Her request threw me so much that ALL of my languages fled my brain. When one of them finally returned it wasn’t either English or the new language, both of which she spoke. It wasn’t French, which she knew at least a few words of. It was American Sign Language. Which there’s basically NO way she could speak. Brains, I tell you. They make no sense sometimes.

    4. Las Vegas*

      One of my favorite former coworkers at a resort front desk was Hungarian. She was 100% fluent in English and had no discernable accent, whereas a lot of the international staff were earlier in their language journey, so the guests that talked to us day after day assumed she was American/local. But sometimes when she was hungover, her brain would glitch and she would forget how to speak English. So guests were faced with a long, blank silence followed by apologies in Hungarian from someone they thought was a townie. Luckily she was charming, and hilarious, so no one ever complained.

  5. Phil's coworker*

    I’ve shared this before here, but it’s still a favorite story. When I was in an interview once, I was asked (I thought), “When you were at X Institution, did you work at all with Phil?” I had indeed worked with Phil, but he was retired and volunteering at that point, so I said as much. The interviewer cut me off after about a minute and clarified that he’d actually asked if I’d worked at all with FILM! The institution in question had a very prominent film archive.

    I did get the job but people talked about that for YEARS.

    1. ThreeSeagrass*

      That is 100% something I would do. My aural processing skills can be…somewhat lacking, particularly under pressure. I love that there was actually a Phil for you to talk about!

    2. Murfle*

      Honestly, that feels like a really easy mistake to make! Being asked about a former colleague at a job interview makes sense in context!

    3. A (Former) Library Person*

      I worked with a Phil at a film archive myself so I can relate to this interview question across all interpretations. :)

    4. Bunny Watson*

      I can also imagine this going horribly wrong if you didn’t know a Phil, and you answered no. I assume you got the job because you had indeed worked with film.

      1. Phil's coworker*

        I actually hadn’t worked with film (and said that), which also wasn’t part of the job I was interviewing for. I think the person asking was more curious, given how famous the film archive was.

    5. S*

      There’s a similar story in Anthony Bourdain’s book, where he was interviewing for a chef job at a steakhouse, and the owner asked him “what do you know about me?” After weighing whether he thought the guy wanted to be sucked up to or not, he answered honestly “next to nothing.” On the way home, he realized–based on the type of restaurant–what the owner was actually saying.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        Wait, what was the owner actually saying? Was the owner just asking what Anthony Bourdain knew about the steakhouse in general?

      2. Quill*

        Honestly I would not be surprised if the owner of a restaurant that tried to hire Bourdain DID want to know if the candidate knew of their fame / reputation.

      3. The OG Sleepless*

        I was just thinking about this. The name of the chapter was “What I Know About Meat.” That is what he thought the interviewer said.

    6. SpaceySteph*

      Oh man, I had a similar thing happen last summer. “What are your thoughts on this position’s role in the [three letter meeting acronym]?” Begin answering all about my experience with [three letter meeting acronym], turns out there was an entirely different meeting of the same acronym that the new role supported.

      Actually never found out if I would have gotten that job, I accepted a different offer very soon after and withdrew from consideration.

    7. Dragonfly7*

      I will totally do this if I am ever asked about troubleshooting a coffee machine or copy machine and hear the opposite. I haven’t been able to tell the difference between the two words since my early 30s and have to rely a lot on context. My former workplace had both machines available to the public in our area, so this was a common mixup for me.

    8. Leira*

      As a veterinarian working in Wisconsin, a recruiter once asked me my favorite part of Madison. I thought it was an odd question, but I talked about what kind of commute I was expecting…turned out it was “medicine.” He’d asked me my favorite part of MEDICINE.

  6. G*

    I mentioned some knowledge of a language and they started asking all questions in that language. I did not know it well enough to answer anything and had to literally tell them I didn’t think I was a good match for the role

    1. Carlie*

      Oh god that happened to me… I claimed working level proficiency in French and German (studied both at high school, but definitely not to any kind of “proficiency”) and the interviewer put me on the phone with a coworker who asked me questions in French, followed by German. Awkward! Obviously did not get that job.

      1. UKDancer*

        I was the interviewer in that scenario once in a previous company. I was interviewing for a job which required the ability to work in French and discuss reasonably technical issues with French suppliers (imagine the company made teapots but we had specialist teapot glaze from different French glazing companies). So there was a section on the application form in French and then I asked some questions at the interview. One candidate had (I can assume) got someone else to write his answers because when I said to him “I will now ask you two questions in French” he looked like a deer in headlights.

        It was pretty apparent that he really didn’t have very good French as he really struggled with forming comprehensive sentences in answer to the questions and his grammar was dreadful.

        I mean honestly, if you’re claiming knowledge of a language, for a job involving that language, you need to speak the language to the level you claim because otherwise you’re not going to be able to do the job.

      2. Jackalope*

        I had the opposite experience. I’m fluent in a slightly obscure language that most people in my country don’t speak (and many don’t even know it exists). During my interview at my current employer I had an interviewer who happened to speak said obscure language and shifted to using it partway through the interview. I have never been so glad not to have lied on a resume in my life! I’ve been here for several years and really like this job, but I’m pretty certain if I hadn’t spoken the language (and it’s one I could reasonably have expected no one else to know) then I would have been marked Do Not Hire Ever.

        1. DondeEstaLaBiblioteca*

          Something similar happened to me! I interviewed for a library job and indicated I spoke Spanish (I don’t look it, but I’m actually Hispanic and fluent). They didn’t ask me anything about it during the interview, but placed me in the branch where Spanish was the predominantly spoken language of the community. My. Very. First. Day. I walked in and the branch manager said “oh, good, you’re here – we need you to translate for the program that’s happening in the program room.” So I went in to the room and started translating the presenter’s comments into Spanish for the gathered audience. Don’t lie on your resume, people!

      3. But what to call me?*

        I never know how to represent my Spanish ability when applying for a job. “Well, I’ve got a decent vocabulary for assessing a toddler’s language skills, and I can read just about anything, and if you speak slowly enough I’ll catch most of what you’re saying unless you use a word I don’t know, of which there are *many*, and I only have vaguest idea about most grammatical tenses but am familiar enough that I could *probably* figure them out in context if I had time to think about it, and I could probably figure out how say what I need to say in a way that would make sense to a reasonably patient native speaker except that I tend to forget every single thing I know about the language every time I try to use it with another human being, and even at my best I’m still going to sound like I barely know what I’m talking about…”

        I tend to just not mention it and then later surprise people when they realize I do actually know a reasonable amount, which comes up remarkably often in my field.

        1. I Have RBF*

          I would put it as “Fairly fluent reading, but can only understand spoken if it’s slow and simple.”

        2. Quill*

          I always make sure to point out that I’m fluent reading, conversational speaking. Sometimes I will understand you entirely based on your voice pitch and accent and most of the time my ability to actually string a spoken sentence together stalls out.

        3. amoeba*

          “Intermediate level” is what I use as a catch-all kind of term for that. My French is… well, good for understanding almost everything in reading, fine for understanding most conversation when it’s clearly spoken and directed to me (so, not an animated discussion in a group), OK pronunciation, horrible writing, horrible grammar. So – “intermediate” it is.

        4. Alice*

          Sounds like a B1. Google the CEFR general scales and see where you feel more represented. It’s not popular in the States, but around Europe the CEFR is the default measure system for languages and it’s really helpful since it focuses on what you can do rather than what you know.

        5. Chirpy*

          Same. My problem is I’m both a bit rusty, and I speak Spain Spanish and don’t always understand the much more common here Mexican Spanish. Mostly it’s an accent thing, I’m fine reading most of the time, or if it’s one person speaking clearly on a topic I know sufficient vocabulary.

        6. Bast*

          I find myself in the same predicament, and usually just leave off speaking another language altogether, particularly as there are many native speakers around me and I have nowhere near the proficiency of a native speaker. I can speak, and be understood, and while I can understand when others speak in general, I have problems if the speech gets particularly fast/slang filled and with specific accents. Spanish is spoken in so many countries, and the accent is so very different in say, Spain compared to the DR, the DR compared to Argentina. To be fair, I also have had difficulty with certain accents in English as well, but it gets me a bit more flustered trying to figure it out in a second language. To read and write in Spanish is much easier than to speak and understand — although part of this might also be attributed to me naturally being a bit on the shy side. I have a degree of fluency where I have been able to manage conversations with clients and get by when there are no native speakers, but tend to see myself as a last resort option and do not mention it anywhere on my resume or during an interview.

    2. LCH*

      my nightmare. i always worry this will happen when i include my very truthful proficiency on my resume (it’s beginner).

    3. Chirpy*

      I once had an interview where they saw on my college transcripts that I had taken Russian…so the interview started with the interviewer coming in the room, speaking Russian to me.

      It was downhill from there. My Russian is too rusty, I didn’t even have it on my resume because I hadn’t used it in over 5 years. I speak Spanish decently well…and this was not a job where any language but English was likely to come up at all.

      1. Bast*

        That is so odd that someone would assume taking a few high school/college classes makes anyone fluent in a language — most of the foreign language classes I have taken at that “teach to the test” and have focused on a lot more on bookwork than on the actual conversational aspect, particularly what I assume is a more advanced level conversation than asking where the bathroom is, how much does this cost, and the other basics they tend to stick with. (unless, of course, you happened to be a Russian major, but it doesn’t sound like it).

        1. Chirpy*

          I mean, had he done this during the 2 years I was actively taking Russian, I could probably have answered most of his questions, as I had a very good professor. I just never used it again (took it for fun, was not in an area with any significant Russian speaking population) and in the meantime had lived in Spain, so most of the Russian just evaporated from disuse. It was just so completely unexpected.

          Honestly it was a bullet dodged, though, as the company had a newsworthy scandal that required a major audit just a few years later, and I was glad I didn’t work there.

    4. Burger Bob*

      I did a smaller scale version of this once. I was in college interviewing for an internship at a non-profit. They asked what are some of my strengths. I did not yet know constructive ways to answer this question (very interviews in my life before that point), so I just answered a few things I thought I was good at, one of which was “I learn languages quickly.” Which is not untrue. Every language class I have taken, I have quickly risen to the top of the class and picked up on the little grammar rules and stuff. The problem is, I have never pursued any of these languages beyond basic or mid-level stuff, so I’ve never been more than a little conversational in any of them. So when they followed by response by excitedly asking me what languages I could speak (would have been VERY useful in the area the non-prof worked in), I had to sheepishly clarify that I didn’t actually SPEAK any other language. I realized my mistake immediately. Never repeated that one again.

  7. Jennifer Strange*

    I was applying for a job at the Metropolitan Opera and the job listing included “sense of humor” so I decided to include this joke in my cover letter: Why do pirates like doing to the opera? For the AAARRRRias and high Cs.

    I did not get the job.

    1. Wednesday*

      This would have guaranteed you an interview with me and probably would have boosted your candidacy in my org.

    2. Salsa Your Face*

      What do sopranos and pirates have in common? They’re both murder on the high Cs! (Signed with love, a mezzo.)

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I mean we do have Pirates of Penzance and The Flying Dutchman, so I can’t complain too much!

    3. Lana Kane*

      Not sure what they meant by sense of humor then!

      Come to think of it, it’s probably the same as “work well with different personalities” or “work well under pressure” – the job will be a shitshow and you need to be able to laugh it off.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Or “When we said we’d get you the numbers for Tuesday’s meeting by the end of day Monday, we were joking. You’ll actually get them sometime the Friday after the meeting.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        For one project, I estimated it would take 2-4 weeks (after I got the requirements). Six months later I still didn’t have the requirements, and I decided I could either rip out all my hair or joke about it. So I turned it into a comedy skit. By the time I actually got the requirements (more than 18 months after the project start), I had it down to a tight 10 minutes of standup.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Unfortunately in opera it often means “conductor x is super duper creepy but we all just have to pretend that it’s funny and charming.” *gag*

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Right? Jennifer Strange would have gone straight into the “interview” pile if I had been screening!

    4. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I knew someone who worked as an ASL translator who translated “Arrggh” (it was a song about pirates) by doing the letter R with the other hand over one eye as an impromptu eyepatch.

  8. The Wizard Rincewind*

    I commiserate with the stories of blurting out something that’s very unlike you but it sounded funnier in your head. That is very much the story of my life.

  9. AnonAdmin*

    I went to a job interview once for an admin position in an arts & sciences college and they asked me my “spirit animal” which is an awful question for so many reasons. I didn’t have an answer ready so I just said my favorite animal, ocelot. They asked why. Again, no idea, so I said, AND I QUOTE, “Because they’re smaller so I could imagine owning one without it ripping my face off.”

    I did not get the job.

    1. triss merigold*

      oh man. That might be better than my default answer, which is seagull: They live at the beach, and they eat stolen cheetos. but obviously I would hope not to encounter that question, for all the implied reasons.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        That’s perfect. That may be my answer for any “spirit animal” question now. Love the stolen cheetos!

      1. Ray Gillette*

        The ones with the ear tufts are caracals. Ocelots are the ones with the beautiful spotted coats. But all cats are cats

    2. nm*

      I can’t for the life of me understand what they think they’re accomplishing with questions like this. Do *they* actually think there’s a purpose to these questions, or do they just feel like they gotta ask something so let’s throw darts at the wall until something sticks?

      1. AnonAdmin*

        The followup question was “You’re never going to get it, but guess my spirit animal.”

        “You’re right, I won’t. Is it a bear?”

        “No, it’s an emu!”

        1. Quokka*

          As an Australian I find this really weird. I think it’s partly having a spirit animal from a country where that isn’t a thing, but mostly that Emu’s are known for not flying, running really fast, and being dangerous with their feet (chaos flailing). Still, they are the only side to ever defeat Australia in a war, so there’s that. (The Great Emu War in 1932)
          Did he ever explain it?

          1. AnonAdmin*

            No explanation! I just said, “Okay?” and they moved on to the next question. He looked quite proud. Maybe he did have a thing about powerful feet? We were all seated, so I guess I’ll never know.

        2. lyonite*

          So, this person was just really into their “spirit animal” idea and looking for any way to work it into the conversation?

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Apparently. I’d answer ‘swan’–they are beautiful, graceful and can whale the heck out of you with their wings if they’re miffed off.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        I know there can be issues with the rigid formality of interviews at a government agency, but at least when you are asking 7 pre-scripted questions of all candidates that have to be approved by HR in advance, it prevents this kind of crap.

      3. Mr. Shark*

        I don’t think it would help provide any information on qualifications, obviously, but it might provide some insight into the person’s personality, which would definitely help determine if that person was a particular fit for the team.

    3. new post, new name*

      My spirit animal is a basalisk, and I have the death stare to match. I would probably get escorted out of the building after answering this question.

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      Ha! I probably would have gone off on some tangent about how using the term “spirit animal” is inappropriate.

    5. gmg22*

      I suspect my answer to this admittedly problematic question (capybara) would not get me hired anywhere either. They’re everybody’s friend, but they don’t really do anything that appears particularly industrious.

      1. New Mom (of 1 2/9)*

        I don’t know if you meant that literally, but I suppose that I have a patron saint and not a spirit animal!

    6. MondayMonday*

      These questions are the worst. I had a boss that would ask things like this or even worse ask what kind of tree or household appliance you would be. They had no reasoning for these questions. Then depending on what the candidate would say, would take their answer and plug it into google and see if there was any hidden meaning to someone identifying with a toaster. And then they would take that answer into account when picking a candidate. Not their actual skills. We started warning candidates, especially internal ones, that they would be given these dumb questions or tell them the animal they should pick to get a higher rating.

        1. MondayMonday*

          YES!!! They had no idea what they were doing but figured that later they could look up the thing and see if there was more to hiring someone who said they could identify with an Elm tree.
          The happy ending is my manager was removed from the group a couple years later.

    7. UKDancer*

      I wouldn’t know how to answer that or how you choose one so I’d probably go with my favourite animal as well. The UK doesn’t really go in for “spirit animals” which I think of as a first nations thing.

      I’d probably say spotted hyena because I think they’re quite interesting.

      1. Emma*

        I had a series of encounters with a spotted hyena on holiday recently, so I probably would have said the same thing and then belatedly realised that there was no way I could explain my choice without spending half an hour talking about my holiday!

      2. amoeba*

        I mean, I’d probably interpret it as meaning “if you were an animal, which animal would you be?”, just phrased in a very culturally insensitive way that would definitely make me question their DEI strategy.

        But even if I were asked in the less offensive way above.. I mean, the honest answer would not be work appropriate! “I want to say cat because they’re cool and independent and all but if I’m being honest, it’s probably a golden retriever – always hungry and needy about being liked by everybody!”

        Hm. Not what they’re searching for, I’d guess. Although I guess you could spin it into “enthusiastic and happy to work with other people”…

        1. Mr. Shark*

          “I’d be a cat so I could sleep all day, lie in the sun, and have people feed me and pick up my poop.” haha. Yeah, that wouldn’t be a good selling point to get a job. :)

    8. Lyra Belacqua*

      Oh god, I’d completely blocked this out until your post reminded me:

      I was starting a new job and was asked what my spirit animal was as an ice breaker. I was a college student, everyone there was young, and I clearly wasn’t aware of professional norms yet, so I said “a bonobo, because they’re matriarchal and have lots of sex.”

    9. Bearly a martial artist*

      Long, long ago when I participated in a martial art, I was told that my fighting animal was a bear. Wasn’t fast, but if I hit you, you were gonna feel it. Not sure if that would have been any better answer.

    10. Princess Sparklepony*

      That’s a great answer.

      It’s best I don’t answer that question since my spirit animal is likely a sloth for all the reasons you would think. I would wish it was an otter because they are cute but vicious but that is not to be. Sloth is my true spirit.

        1. Panda*

          I got asked this not that long ago, and I said “probably a panda” because they’re good at eating and sleeping and falling off things.

        1. Kiwi*

          I somehow missed this update! So glad it worked out well for the poster, and I’m going to be giggling about this story the rest of the day

    1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      And that one had such a great life lesson! Your Condom Incident might be someone else’s Lipstick Incident, so let’s all laugh together and move forward.

    2. Happy Pineapple*

      I hadn’t seen that one before! I may have pulled a muscle trying not to laugh at my desk. Fantastic.

    3. SpaceySteph*

      The update is a really good read for this LW too. Maybe LW got the job, maybe they didn’t, but probably all those interviewers forgot about have badly she bombed it because of accidentally telling the cashier “you too” when they said “thanks for shopping at [store]” on the way home or whatever embarassing or busy life stuff is on their mind.

    4. LCH*

      if this OP in as charming in person as in their style of writing, i’m not surprised the interviewer overlooked this. it’s a great story.

  10. call me wheels*

    Not me but recently my housemate had a retail job interview and when asked why she was interested in the role, she blanked, panicked, and just said “money.” and nothing else.

      1. lost academic*

        Plus it’s retail. Who’s actually looking for a nuanced response about how much being a cashier is fulfilling to them as a career choice? People you will probably hate to work for.

        1. Jojo*

          As a former bookstore manager, I used to ask everyone what they expected a day on the job to be like. This allowed me to filter out people who expected to sit at the register and read in between customers. I’m still surprised at just how many people gave me that answer. But, even I knew that most people where just there so they could pay their bills.

          1. Ama*

            I think questions that help get a sense of what candidates expect from a job are really important! I work in nonprofit grant administration, which can mean a broad range of tasks, and asking candidates what type of projects they are hoping to work on if they are hired helps us identify candidates who are looking for a very different type of job than the one we are hiring for.

          2. saskia*

            I mean, I’ve known people who worked in bookstores that indeed encouraged employees to hang out, read and create a warm, bookish atmosphere during downtime. If the employer expects people to do X, Y and Z during “downtime” instead, they need to state that. Why would I know what a day on the job is like? I don’t work there. You should tell me because… you do.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              I feel like that would depend on the bookstore, though – like, say, a small indie bookstore may be low-key enough for someone to finish all other tasks (tidying displays, checking for email orders, whatever) and then have time to sample a book, but at larger chains, where there’s often a line at the registers, that seems a bit less likely. Part of reason behind the question might be whether the applicant knows enough about the bookstore to reasonably assess how busy it might be on any given day.

              1. saskia*

                I get it, but there’s a reason “tell me about a typical workday” is usually a question the interviewee asks, not the interviewer.

                1. I Have RBF*

                  Seriously.

                  My answer to “what I expected a day on the job to be like.” would be “I don’t know. That’s a question that I wanted to ask you.”

                  If I was applying at a bookstore, I would expect a) working the register, b) reshelving books, c) putting new stock on the shelves, and d) cleaning up messes left my patrons. But I don’t know for sure. Maybe they want me to read stories to kids, too.

            2. Burger Bob*

              In this particular example, though, I think “I’m honestly not really sure, and I’d love to hear what a typical day is like” would be considered a FAR better answer than people who confidently respond with some version of them finally getting to spend all their time reading new books. So the question would still serve its purpose.

          3. Hannah Lee*

            I’m amazed at the number of people who apply for jobs and have wildly out of sync “I’m looking for a position where I apply my creative and meticulous cake baking skills” as the header on a resume applying for a position as a stock room assistant at an electronics manufacturer, no baking, frosting or nonpareils involved.

            Like, I know it’s a hassle to update your resume for each job, but you had time to think it through before you hit submit.

            (Then there was the guy who had, and I quote “Action plan to get along with co-workers and earn a good reputation” as his resume header. His work experience showed he’d had 12 jobs in 4 years. I was like, yeah, tracks)

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              I was on a search committee once that received an application that started with, “I am applying for the Marketing Assistant positing with {Department} at {University}” and a statement of relevant skills. Then the rest of the letter was about how much they loved beer and enjoyed experimenting with home brewing and often gave recommendations to their friends and that’s why they were excited to work at {local brewery}. We wouldn’t have interviewed them anyway but the added level of cringe is that proofreading others’ marketing materials was the second responsibility listed.

        2. Where Wolf?*

          Exactly this! When I was first out of college and was looking for entry level office work to get out retail, one interview I had was a receptionist with a carpet cleaning company. The interviewer asked me why I wanted to work there and I gave a standard but (I hope) well phrased answer of seeking my first full-time job and being eager to join a team working together to assist clients, blah blah blah. But then the interviewer asked me twice more through the interview why I wanted to work there. It felt like he wanted me to jump on top of his desk and start singing how carpet cleaning was my life. I just want a job that pays me money, sir, please stop asking me.

          1. Lainey L. L-C*

            I had that too when applying for a job (when my current one was announcing layoffs). When a friend (who had given my resume to them) asked, the person hiring said, “She just seems like she wants another job that’s not her current one.” The one that is laying people off? How dare I?!

            1. I Have RBF*

              Seriously.

              If I’m not working and I’m interviewing, I don’t care a fig for your industry. My work goes across industries, I just want a job using my skills. I’m not going to get excited about B2B software, SaaS, online retail, or whatever else. As long as your business isn’t something I consider unethical, I have no opinion on it. If your business is what I consider unethical, I wouldn’t be interviewing with you.

            2. SpaceySteph*

              Literally what other reason is there to go to a job interview?

              People are so wildly out of touch about the reason most people work. I have a job I love in a field I’m passionate about in a city I enjoy living in… but I still would trade it in to be independently wealthy and not have to work.

          2. A Genuine Scientician*

            This reminds me of the dino and comics:

            Why do you want a job?

            I need a job to pay for my hobbies.

            What are your hobbies?

            Eating food and sleeping indoors.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          Eh, the answer could definitely provide useful info. Especially if they’re already employed at a similar-paying job elsewhere… why do they want to move? For example maybe they want more hours, or a schedule that’s either more consistent or more flexible. If I’m changing jobs because I want more hours and night shift fits better with my class schedule, a job that needs someone as an extra-help floater for two day shifts a week is not a good fit!

          Similarly someone might have an answer like “I find customer service more enjoyable than data entry” which would be a good sign. And plenty of neutral answers like “It’s close to home.”

          1. Distracted Procrastinator*

            a reasonable interviewer would definitely accept those types of answers, but I have run across more than one who expected me to talk about how I’ve been dreaming of working for their exact company since the day I was born. One made it very obvious what was expected in the interview by having a quiz about their value statement and several other aspects of their website (not a web design or marketing company) as part of the application process.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            My feline alarm’s latest thing is lurking just outside the bedroom door and meowing at the top of his very hearty lungs at the first sound of movement. Problem is that this movement is sometimes just someone rolling over and reshuffling the covers or getting up for a middle-of-the-night bathroom run, and we are having issues conveying (because he does not speak English), that 1:30 AM is not breakfast time, even if the humans are not immobile.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            Mine would sleep on my throat. Waking up gasping for breath with cat hair in your mouth is quite the experience. I tried many times to explain that if she killed me during the night the food and treats would stop. And no one would clean her litter box. I believe in her cat mind she replied with Yeah? But so would the brushing and pilling. So there!

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Might be too straightforward even for retail, but yeah, don’t we all.

      My poor BIL had been working at an auto mechanic in Florida. He got a chance to interview for an office job, but he had never worked in an office. When they asked him why he wanted to work there, he said, “It’s air-conditioned.”

      He did not get the job, and I often think of that as the invisible barrier between blue and white collar jobs. He didn’t know the secret code of interview questions.

    2. Lizz*

      I would honestly struggle not to give the Homer Simpson “money can be exchanged for goods and services”….

    3. ceiswyn*

      I pretty much gave that same answer in a job interview once.

      I actually got the job.

      (In my defence, the interviewer was clearly being deliberately antagonistic as a strategy, and I’d already decided that if I couldn’t uncover a decent human being, I wasn’t going to take the job. Fortunately he humanned up nicely)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “Deliberately antagonistic as a strategy” seems like a terrible strategy. Are they hoping the top candidates will think “I have a bunch of good choices, but my favorite is definitely the one with that a-hole interviewer.”

    4. ErinWV*

      I worked retail in college, and after I graduated, I started asking about working full time and getting benefits. They told me I could apply for benefits. What this meant to them was, apply and interview for a benefitted position; to me, it meant, I’m just turning in some paperwork.

      So long story short, I’m asked to sit down with the store manager, who asks why I want the new position. I say completely honestly, “I graduated, so I can’t be on my parents’ health insurance anymore.” It took a good 5 minutes before I realized I was in a damn interview.

      1. Burger Bob*

        What a weird situation! An already trained retail employee wants to go full-time, they have the hours, and they don’t immediately promote said employee to full-time? Most retail managers I know would be ecstatic to have someone offering full-time availability. XD The only exception is situations like my workplace where we have a few more people who want full-time than we think we can reasonably expect payroll for, and we don’t want to switch someone to full-time only to have to lay them off a few months later. But if you have the hours? Yeah I would never bother with making them interview.

    5. Nameless*

      One of my favorite Parks & Recs jokes is when a character played by Kyle Mooney is interviewing to fill Tom’s role, and Ron asks him what he wants out of the job, and his answer is “about one month’s worth of money.”

    6. Former Red and Khaki*

      HA! So at my former big box retail job, I was in charge of the cosmetics section, and when we hired or moved people into that section we wanted them to have a passion for cosmetics so they could help the guests in a more informed/personalized way – and this was made CLEAR in the job posting, I need to point out. When I interviewed people, I would ask them what had interested them about the job, and 99.9% of them would talk about their love for the beauty world. Except for one girl, whose response was: “Well I saw the job posting online and I thought why not.”

      I did not move her on to a second interview.

    7. Worker Bee*

      I did that when interviewing for a catering position once. I said, “I need money and the hours suit my schedule.”

      It was a group interview and I had gone first, so then I got to listen to all the other candidates give answers like “I really enjoy working with the public” and “I’m going to school for restaurant management” and so on.

    8. StarTrek Nutcase*

      At an interview for a job I only wanted in order to escape a horrendous job, the first question was where I saw myself in 5 years. My response: “retired”. Once I said it I knew it was too honest, but brain farts are a thing. I knew it wasn’t recoverable and just endured til the interview ended.

    9. There You Are*

      I recently switched companies and was asked at the only in-person interview at one place, “Why do you want to work for [company]?”

      I said, “Honestly? This office is closer to my house than any of the other places I am interviewing with. But, also, this is a stable industry and it would be unusual for there to be layoffs in the upcoming years.”

      They asked if there was anything unique about their industry that drew me to it, and I said, “It’s not banking, finance, or insurance. I’m not refined enough for Wall Street.”

      Oddly enough, they liked all those answers and made me an offer the next day. I turned down the job but only because I had gotten a higher offer for a 90% remote role, which suits my life better right now.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        I was in an interview for an admin position and I was getting frustrated after too many terrible interviews and I had just kind of had it. When discussing my qualification I ended up insulting the interviewer’s alma mater. He hired me anyways.

    10. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

      I was in an interview once with a non-profit and the hiring manager *very* enthusiastically told me that while they could not offer a high salary what they really offer is EXPERIENCE.

      I paused, blinked and said “I prefer my pay to be in money.”

      I stand by that answer.

      1. AnonORama*

        Yeah, if the conversation turns to compensation — particularly if the salary isn’t listed and you have to ask — and they start telling you about the experience, the benefits (usually actually meh) and/or the mission: you have your answer about the salary.

  11. Modesty Poncho*

    Hnnnn this is a rough one, friends. At this point in my life, I was in college but undiagnosed autistic, and my mother is…she doesn’t like to let her kids fail on their own, which ironically set me up for failure.

    I was an English minor looking for internships, and somehow or another my mom found me an interview which would take place the next day. This already had me in a panic, because it just wasn’t enough time to mentally prepare and get used to the idea. It was middle of summer, and my mom took me shopping for an interview suit. She refused to buy pants, because pants were unprofessional (this would have been…idk, 2012?) so made me wear a tight pencil skirt I couldn’t properly walk in with my particular shape, and hose. (I know, I was an adult, I could have said no, but I was already panicked and hadn’t yet gotten the hang of standing up to her.)

    SO here I go out to an interview in the middle of NYC, from where my family lived in NJ, in summer in clothes I hate, sweating like a pig, for a position I don’t know anything about because in all her setting me up she never bothered to advise me to research the position. I show up for the interview and they’re discussing a start time within a couple of weeks. I say, confused, that I was looking for positions for when school started and I’d live in the city again. I never had any intention of commuting. So by that point I was probably already out, but…

    They asked me if I had a copy of my resume. I learned that day that this was something you should have with you when you go to an interview. And the combination of discomfort, knowing already that I’d failed, and shame for not knowing something so simple, sent me into tears. I just broke out crying and I don’t remember any more of the interview.

    Thanks, mom.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Ugh, that’s terrible! I’m sorry your mother did that to you.

      I once had an interview I was prepared for, but the first person I met with (HR) was really drilling me, asking me questions I could not figure out what the answer was supposed to be. I *think* I held it together in the room, but then I just cried in between the two interviewers. Unsurprisingly, the second one didn’t go that well, even though the interviewer was nice and normal! (I still don’t know what HR was looking for from me.)

    2. T.N.H.*

      Ugh, I got bad news once right before an interview and wound up crying halfway through, so you are not alone.

    3. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      Oh wow, that just kept getting worse the longer I read it, what an awful experience! (And as someone who spent Summer 2012 in NY/NJ, I’m sweating just imagining that outfit!)

    4. Ally McBeal*

      Yeeeeesh. My father was an engineer and my mother a nurse, so while I wasn’t a first-gen college student, I never even thought to ask their advice for my desk-job interviews and I think that did me a world of good. I’ve had to learn on my own how to interview and have made many mistakes along the way, but at least I didn’t get bad advice from the people you’re supposed to be able to put all your trust in.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Oh, that’s just awful! That was so unfair to you in so many ways. And to the interviewers too, who hopefully felt really bad that they’d somehow made you cry!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        ETA: not that they did it on purpose, at all! But if I asked someone a question in an interview and they started crying I would panic: “OMG, what did I say??”

    6. StarTrek Nutcase*

      I was dying to transfer from a department where my supervisor was the devil incarnate. I got an interview in another department and I notified my supervisor (required by the agency) for 1:30pm in 3 days. That day, she decided to give me my annual performance review at 1p without notice. It was okay, but there was one comment that really pissed me off, but I responded appropriately.

      At 1:30pm, interview started and I knew I was off my game and within 15mins had the one and only panic attack I ever had at work in 45yrs. After 45mins, I returned to work without comment. I never told her she did me a favor because 3wks later I scored a promotion into my preferred department where I excelled for 10yrs until retirement.

    7. But what to call me?*

      What a terrible experience.

      I would absolutely have forgotten/not thought about bringing a resume to that interview. One day to prepare, rushed off to get clothes that don’t seem right to you but that you don’t feel confident in refusing, no time to think about what you might need to know for an interview so you’re stuck relying on advice from a person who apparently prioritized getting you into poorly-fitting and weather-inappropriate clothing over anything else you might have done with that time…

      Yeah, I’d have probably started crying at that point too.

    8. Modesty Poncho*

      In a funnier story, the first job I got at the local supermarket no one explained to me that job interviews were a thing. Showed up for what I thought was my first day confused why they were asking me so many questions.

      At least that job I got XD

  12. SarahKay*

    Interview at McDonald’s when I was at university and needed a part-time job. The first question was “What do you know about our company”. Reader, I knew nothing and the only thought my brain would produce was ‘How much do I need to know to ask “Do you want fries with that”?’

    Thankfully I at least managed not to *say* what I was thinking and merely stammered a bit before managing to summon the fact that they’d just recently opened their first Russian branch. There really was no excuse for my ignorance as at that time there used to be fact cards at every counter. To no-one’s surprise I did not get the job.

    On the plus side it taught me a never-to-be-forgotten lesson on being prepared for *any* interview.

    1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

      A good friend of mine was one of the managers who opened that first Russian store!

    2. Kiwi*

      Thats such a bizarre question for an interview at literally one of the most well-known brands in the world.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        This was my first thought! “What do you know about our ubiquitous fast food chain?” I can see asking it to maybe managers or people on the corporate side in case they’re trying to see how much research they’ve done on that side of the business, but it seems unnecessary for roles where staff will be asking “Do you want fries with that?”

      2. ErinWV*

        I’ve seen the movie The Founder, so I would be afraid of saying something like, “What do I know about McDonalds? Well, the rights were fundamentally stolen from the original owners…”

        1. RC*

          Yeah honestly my first thought was were they trying to weed out people who had a negative impression of the company for that reason or the whole “remember when we cooked fries in beef fat but didn’t tell the vegetarians” or the hot coffee burning the old lady or…

          But maybe I’m overthinking it :)

          1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

            I just checked the ingredients, and McDonalds still uses natural beef flavor in their french fries. The fries also contain dairy, which is not a thing anybody would think to ask about.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          After reading Fast Food Nation I might have launched into a diatribe about franchising…

      3. SarahKay*

        This was in 1992 which was the middle of a recession in the UK. I guess the thinking was that they could afford to be picky about their candidates, even for the ‘Do you want fries with that’ type roles, and this would let them weed out the unprepared.
        And with piles of four different fact sheets available at every counter, probably all they were looking for was candidates who did just ten minutes prep reading them beforehand.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          For anyone wondering about the context – that’s back when McDonald’s was relatively new in the UK and still considered something of a novelty. So it’s actually a less terrible question than it seems, because US-style fast food places were a lot less common in the UK at that time.

          1. Maybe I Need Coffee*

            Haha, we (Americans) lived in Bedfordshire in 1992. When we would go into London for the day, everyone got to pick something they wanted to do. Inevitably our kiddos would ask to go to McDonald’s!

          2. SarahKay*

            It wasn’t *very* new; I’d had my first McDonalds meal at least 10 years before that. (Dad liked it a lot more than I did; I must have been one of the few kids who, when their dad suggested McD’s for lunch, would pull a face and say “Do we have to?”)
            By the time of the interview, while they were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are now I think there was at least one of either a McD’s or Burger King in most medium-sized or larger towns; my home town in one of the most rural english counties had both.

            1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

              Can confirm, as someone who worked at MacDonalds in Canterbury in 1994! There wasn’t one in the small town where I grew up in the 80s but any medium-sized town would have one from the mid-80s at least.

              (I have no memory of my interview for the position for some reason, but I must have managed not to mention the McLibel Two. Well played, tiny anarcho-communist Firefighter!)

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I’ve gotten this in corporate interviews and dislike this question — maybe it’s the autistic side of me, but how in the world do I answer that? I never understand what the expectation is, what level of synthesis or detail to go into. Is it as basic as: It’s a fast food chain? Or, one of the most recognizable brands in the world? A hamburger chain that started as a drive-in in California in the 1940s and embraced an approach of standardization + localization to expand into x countries doing x billion a year? Honestly I have no idea what they want to hear.

      That said, early in my life I was up for a Rotary scholarship and they asked me if I could tell them about Rotary and I could not. At all. And the head guy was like, don’t you think you should have looked us up if you want us to give you money? Well, yes, I should have. So I do my research now, always, but that doesn’t mean I can distill your company in a sentence or two.

      1. iglwif*

        Where I used to work, we asked that question — basically as part of weeding out the people who had not even bothered to look at our website and thought we groomed rabbits when in fact we groomed both llamas and alpacas (so to speak).

        I too would have to make a serious effort not to infodump at people who already know what’s on their website / in the public domain about the company they already work at. But a surprising number of people don’t know what they don’t know.

      2. Chai Tea Morning*

        I also hate this question. Honestly part of the reason I was interested in taking the last job I interviewed for was because they didn’t ask stupid questions like this or “what’s your greatest weakness?”

        1. Quill*

          I actually answered that one badly once and got the job. Six months out of college, two months off an internship, I said “if you mean physically? My achilles tendon.”

          (Technically it’s not that tendon! it’s one that’s close but that most people have never heard of.)

          I think the moment of silence and then “If you meant personality, I’m pretty stubborn about making sure things are completed and not just left up in the air” which I think saved it.

    4. SophieCroft*

      I was solicited by a recruiter for an in-house legal position in my field. I was curious about whether I’d like working in-house rather than in private practice and wanted to learn more, so I took the interview. I did essentially no research, other than having a passing familiarity with the brand as an occasional consumer. It turned out that the interview was actually a series of interviews in which they planned to have me meet in turns with their entire C-Suite and although the CEO/founder was supposed to go last, he had an unexpected cancellation so he took the first slot. One of the first questions he asked me was why I wanted to work for his company, and I confidently replied with some information about why my skillset was suited for the opening they had, and followed it up with, “And you’re one of the only local companies that’s in this industry.”

      He definitely did NOT love hearing the employment-equivalent of me telling him I would only date him because he was the last man on earth. I did not get the job, and I learned a lot about preparing for interviews. FWIW, the happy post-script was that three years later, he moved the entire company to another state and terminated everyone who didn’t move. That meant I only spent three years kicking myself for my incredibly poor preparation.

    5. I Have RBF*

      If I was interviewing for a fast food job and an interviewer asked me that I’d look at them like they were on drugs. “You are a fast food company who hires people to cook and server said fast food.”

      See, to me Arby’s, Wendys, McDonalds, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Kentucky Fried, In’n’Out and Taco Bell are pretty much the same. They are fast food.

      An interviewer for a fast food job asking for deep research on a company is barking up the wrong tree, IMO.

  13. Save Bandit*

    I was a communications specialist, interviewing for an assistant admin job in comms/marketing. The interviewer and I weren’t jelling well anyway, but she asked what my process was for creating marketing plans and calendars, and I very stupidly said, “oh my boss does that.” Full stop. No, “well in my current role, my boss primarily handles that, but from working with her I’ve learned that I’d expect to do something XYZ in this role.” (I didn’t get the job.)

  14. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    In the vein of the first one, when I was interviewing for co-ops (internships, basically) in my junior year, I talked at length about my personal goals (marriage, housing, kids, etc.) when asked where I wanted to be in 5 years. I was shocked (shocked!) that I was having trouble landing an internship that year. My poor co-op advisor was also perplexed, but I’m sure if he had reached out to anyone I interviewed with, he would have immediately understood why nobody wanted to hire me.

    In my defense, I had just left a long-term relationship and was struggling with a lot that year. Thankfully, I was able to use the time I would have been on co-op to get my mental health together enough so that I would be a better interviewer when I was applying for full-time jobs the next year.

    1. Cyndi*

      As someone who is dedicated but not especially ambitious at work, I struggle with this question too! I spent the first half of this year job hunting, so I must have had a canned answer and used it repeatedly, but I’ve already forgotten what it was. My professional goals start and end with “do pretty much what I’m doing now, but better.”

      1. Lacey*

        Same. I’ve basically told interviewers that I enjoy what I do and I’m not looking to move into management, so if all goes well I’d like to be doing the role I’m interviewing for in 5 years.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I was on an interview panel once where my boss asked a guy this question and the guy said “I would really like to be (boss’s job title)”.

            First thing out of boss’s mouth after the guy left was “let’s not hire him, I need this job.”

            1. Elle*

              We were once balancing up two candidates for a role that was about 50% customer service, 25% general admin, and 25% assisting with various things that officially fell under marketing. Panel was myself and a colleague who were going to be jointly line managing (I was also the previous post holder), plus the marketing officer for our function. The slightly better candidate left us with the impression that the marketing officer was likely to be pushed down a flight of stairs so that she could get his job, so we went with the marginally less ambitious candidate!

        1. amoeba*

          Which is absolutely fine, at least in my field! My answer when I moved to industry was “well, I’m pretty open about different possibilities, but for now I’m quite happy to be in science and not actively looking to move away from that. But I’m not excluding other options like project or people management!”

          And now it’s “well, when I started out, I was pretty open about different possibilities. Now, after a few years, I’ve definitely learned that science is the right place for me and I have no intention of leaving”.

          At least in our case it actually makes sense to ask because there’s really two kinds of people – the ones who want to do a few years and then move on to management roles, and the ones who really want to stay and become a subject matter expert. And depending on the setup of the department, having too many of either can be a problem, because you either end up with too much or too little turnover. Or it can also be super relevant for that specific role, because you really need somebody who’s interested in staying long-term. Or the role is just singularly unsuited as a stepping stone to other positions in the company. And so on.

      2. iglwif*

        SAME. This is perhaps my least favourite work question. If I like what I’m doing now and I’m good at it, why would I not want to keep doing it?

        (I know, many people have Goals(tm). I just want to do work I’m okay-to-great at, do it well, and not be at 120% stress all the time.)

        1. Anon for this*

          I have ADHD and basically have very little ability to picture the long-term future, so this sort of thing is spectacularly hard. When asked what my five-year plan was during an annual review with a boss I was very intimidated by, I giggled nervously and said “I never really thought of myself as having a career plan,” which I wished had not come out of my mouth as soon as it had. I’m glad it wasn’t an interview.

          It’s true that my career so far has basically been “do that job with gradually increasing autonomy”, rather than “go off in exciting new directions.” It’s a very specialist job without much progression available.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, mine too. Thankfully I’m in a dead-end job in the sense that there’s no room for progression unless I’m willing to manage people, and I’m not. My manager likes knowing that I’m absolutely fine with that. I’ve been in my current job for 16 years, and would happily stay here until I retire in 15-18 years’ time.

          I enjoy being able to improve my productivity in my current job, and being fairly settled in it. I’m pretty good at embracing change when I understand the necessity for it, but I absolutely and totally loathe change for its own sake, and I’ve never switched jobs just because I was bored.

      3. Modesty Poncho*

        That’s what I’ve tried to answer with in the past. “I want to get to a point in my job where I’m doing good work independently and then keep doing that.” Idk if that’s ever been a point for or against me but it’s true.

    2. Ana*

      I struggled with something very similar during a job search when I was a bit older than a junior in college (but still in my mid-20s) – when people would ask what my goals were, I would answer completely honestly, even if those goals had nothing to do with the job I was interviewing for. Even when I would literally get asked about it by interviewers I wouldn’t “get” it (“What kind of work do you see yourself doing?” “I see myself advocating for llama protection on a national scale.” “We groom individual llamas, so I’m not sure that this really speaks to your interest in that way.” “…Yeah but llamas!”)

      Basically I was cured of this when I talked to a friend who had a reputation for landing jobs that they were not necessarily on-paper shoo-ins for by having great interviews. But I was completely perplexed by the idea that people would ask this question and not really be asking about my long-term dreams.

    3. Office Gumby*

      Had a look back at the past five years of annual reviews. In each and every one, I stated I’d hoped to be doing [X] (either working in another position or off pursuing higher education full time, anything other than staying where I was).

      Yet here I am, trailing a bunch of failed job interviews and school rejection letters, still stuck in the same dead-end job. I’m closer to retirement than not, so it’s not quite feasible to go back to school for the purpose of a career change. Yet I’m so over what I’m doing now. Then again, I think I’ve been over it for a very long time.

      1. Ally*

        Something will come up!! You sound like you’re very proactive so I am sure things will improve for you.

  15. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I was interviewing for an internal position, which I think made me feel a bit more at ease and thus a little bit more off guard than usual. The role involved managing our relationships with contacts at big social media companies, and they asked if I’d be comfortable liaising with them on the phone, etc. Instead of just saying yes and elaborating about managing these kinds of relationships, I just said “I can talk to strangers!!” I did not get the job, but I don’t think they ended up hiring anyone for it at all.

  16. Pangolin*

    Went for a job interview just after recovering from COVID – I was no longer contagious but still within the few weeks after infection where your brain is working at about 70% capacity (I assume this is normal – everyone I’ve spoken to has had this experience). The scheduled 45 minute interview lasted almost an hour and a half. They have absolutely no recollection of what they said. They didn’t get the job.

    1. Pangolin*

      I don’t know why I slipped into second and then third person there, please replace ‘they’ with ‘I’. I think I was thinking about the interviewers?

      1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

        I assumed it was because you were so out of it, in retrospect it was like it happened to someone else!

    2. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      I had a job interview about 10 days after my bout of COVID and I interrupted my own short presentation (~10-15min) and Q+A (over Zoom) with a minutes-long coughing fit, and then it took me another minute to be able to talk again. There are probably other reasons I didn’t get that job, but I’m sure that didn’t help.

      1. That's True*

        I once had a coughing fit in the middle of an in-person interview (pre-covid), and had to leave the room after attempting to talk through it multiple times and being overcome. I wasn’t sick; it was one of those random throat tickles that just wouldn’t clear. The interviewer asked me if I needed a glass of water and I managed to desperately nod through my dry hacking and cough-induced tears. After the water, I was able to go back into the interview after a couple minutes, but by then my nerves were shot.

      2. Lainey L. L-C*

        I too had an interview when I was sick with COVID. I somehow managed to not cough through the entire thing but they could tell I was SICK and I didn’t make the greatest impression.

    3. Sick & Tired*

      I also interviewed while sick with COVID, I have basically zero memory of what happened but amazingly I got the job – it seems like the interviews I think I bombed are the ones that actually call back

      1. Siliril*

        I had the exact same thing happen! Called out thursday when I tested positive but had a phone interview that afternoon. Amazingly I was still clear enough to get through and got hired! Paid for it Friday, Saturday, Sunday though. That was a rough weekend.

    4. Stephen!*

      ooof. Post covid infection, I interviewed at a place with a dedicated parking garage. I could not find this garage, parked on the street, cited parking difficulties as the reson why i was late for the interview. Got lost leaving the interview, ended up walking through the virtually empty parking garage. Did not get job.

    5. ScottishVix*

      I have brain fog from my fibromyalgia. I was in a video interview a couple of weeks ago. He asked where I was at the moment, and I told him naming the nearest big city near me. He said “that’s great, I’m in the Midlands”

      I replied, “Oh, I spent 5 years living in…” and completely blanked that the city I’d lived in Nottingham in the East Midlands. I’m amazed I got through to the second round.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Sorry that you were so sick for the interview, but that username in combination with that comment is *chef’s kiss*.

    7. Bunny Watson*

      I had an interview last year where my interviewer had COVID at the time (it was over zoom), and I answered the same question multiple times and I could not figure out what they were looking for that they kept asking me the same question. I tried to say the same thing in multiple ways, but don’t usually have such problems with communication. I’m wondering now if they were unable to process what I was saying due to brain fog. I did not get invited to a second round.

      1. Elle*

        Six months into my first professional job, my director asked who had interviewed me, as they were sorting panels for another round of recruitment. I listed off “you and X, and then Y did the technical test”, and he looked at me and goes “I didn’t interview you!”. Yes, yes he did, but it was the morning after their Christmas party, and I think he was still drunk…

  17. ThreeSeagrass*

    I once said that I was “pathologically optimistic and aggressively cheerful” in response to a question about my general approach to work. I have never described myself in that way before or since, and it’s not even accurate. I did not get that job (also didn’t help that I forgot about Eastern/Central time differences, and I had to scramble to get on a Zoom call an hour earlier than I’d planned). Now happily employed somewhere else where I did not come off as toxic positivity embodied during my interview…

    1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      Wow, I would physically transform into nopetopus if someone said that to me in an interview! Or if I said it in an interview! It is absolutely wild what comes out of our mouths sometimes.

    2. LCH*

      oof, i’ve done the time difference mistake. had my interview location all planned out… an hour too late. and had to rush with my phone to my face to get into a secluded, quiet area instead.

    3. Eye of the Sturm und Drang*

      I had an interviewer ask me about a phrase I had used in my cover letter, where I quoted a coworker who had described me as the “eye of the storm,” something they actually said about me! I flubbed my answer a bit, stammering something about how I’m a calm, even-keeled person, because at the time I was much more flustered talking about myself. Ironically, I was/am very calm and even-keeled in a crisis! But I get nervous in interviews. Didn’t get that job (although I was runner-up to a person who spoke multiple languages).

    4. Retail Dalliance*

      This is my favorite thing I’ve read this week. I literally laughed out loud in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. “Pathologically optimistic” has me rolling lmao!!!!!

  18. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Ugh the one that haunts me was that I was BROKE, super broke, and my interviewer took me out for coffee. Now he probably would’ve paid for my coffee, in retrospect, but I was young and nervous and did not want my card to get declined in front of this man so I just refused to order a coffee, and it was so awkward I was thrown off for the rest of the meeting and couldn’t even stumble my way through most of his questions.

    It’s not much compared to condoms falling out of your pocket onto the table, but at the time I wanted to die.

    1. UncleFrank*

      A former boss of mine was SO good at always prefacing trips like this with “Let me buy you coffee” and when we got to the coffee shop she would explicitly say “feel free to get a fancy coffee drink if you want”. I always appreciated the clarity and try hard to remember to the same now that I’m the one buying coffee!

      1. Burger Bob*

        “Let me buy you [x]” is SO much better than what I normally get from people, which is more along the lines of “I’m going to get a drink. Anyone else want anything?” And I never know if they are offering to buy or if they are just offering to physically retrieve something if I pay for it, and so I always just decline.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Ugh, that’s terrible! Such a good example of “stuff we assume people just know” that is not at all clear to someone starting out, too.

  19. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    In college I interviewed with an accounting firm, and they asked how I felt about working in a manufacturing environment. I said I would prefer not to because it can be dirty. I don’t know why I said that, I had never worked in a factory and had no knowledge of what it would be like. I was told that most of their clients were manufacturing companies and I quickly realized I would not be getting an internship with them. Almost 2 decades later, 75% of my jobs have been for companies with manufacturing environments.

    1. Glazed Donut*

      In high school I interviewed for a job supervising children in between classes at a local community center. When asked about my experience working with children, I said, “Oh, I don’t really like kids.” I didn’t get the job.
      Interestingly, I did go on to major in education and work with children/teens for the bulk of my career (7-12 education)…

  20. Wednesday*

    I was asked if I had an opportunity to research a particular element of the job, and I responded with “I elemented the hehhhhck out that!” It was very obvious that I was going to say hell instead of heck and why I said elemented instead of researched still cycles through my brain at random nearly 30 years later. The rest of the interview was lost to complete brain static and mortification.

      1. Wednesday*

        Of course not! I think they ghosted me, which was honestly preferable to a potential “would you like some feedback as a candidate” conversation, haha.

  21. GrievousAngel*

    After living in a larger city, I applied for a job in my hometown shortly after my Dad died. The job was with the health care system he utilized, and he also died there. It’s been over 15 years and I don’t remember much, except for crying in the interview.

      1. Misslucy21*

        I’m sorry you had to go through that. I did a phone interview once in the parking lot of the funeral home during my grandma’s viewing. Pretty sure I wasn’t fully coherent for that one (didn’t get the job either)

  22. Fiona*

    My worst one was a job that someone had recommended me for at a cool film nonprofit. I am always SUPER early to interviews so I sat in a nearby Starbucks for at least 45 minutes looking at my resume and preparing. I walked into the office only to find they had two locations – I had gone to the one listed on the website, without realizing that the hiring manager had a different location in her email signature. I got in a taxi and hustled over there, but of course was late. They were very nice but I’m sure annoyed. In the course of the interview, they asked about my experience “programming” events. I genuinely had no idea what this meant. Also I’m pretty sure I wore a frayed denim jacket to the interview. Things are more casual in the arts industry but I wouldn’t say I looked super hip, just mostly unprofessional. (I didn’t get the job, obviously).

    1. Kayem*

      I once interviewed for a position where they were talking about my knowledge of children’s programming. I talked about my experience working with Scratch and other programming languages aimed for children. It wasn’t until near the end I realized they meant event programming. Nope, didn’t get that one either.

  23. idratherbequilting*

    I gave a long-winded answer to a question, but in the middle of my answer I had forgotten the question. I’m not sure my blah blah blah was an answer to the actual question.

    1. BlondeSpiders*

      This happens to me frequently. I tend to ramble, so it’s easy to forget the original question!

    2. CheeryO*

      As someone who sits in on interviews, this happens alllll the time. Can’t tell you how many times someone will give a meandering answer and then laugh and ask what the question was and if they answered it. Honestly, I don’t hate it! It’s humanizing in a way.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This happened to me very memorably – I have occasionally been able to talk aloud into the right answer, but I mistook “occasionally” for “can certainly do it this time too” and finally admitted I had completely lost the thread. I kept it positive and got past that screening but did not ultimately get an offer.

      2. Sparrow*

        Right, I far prefer this to someone who rambles without coming close to answering the question! I definitely think it’s better to double check the question and confirm you’ve answered it rather than just bluffing your way through and hoping for the best.

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      Oh my gosh, I actually have picked up the habit of actually saying “blah, blah, blah” in conversations. I was interviewing someone earlier this week (so not me being interviewed – the other way around) and actually said, in the middle of an answer to the candidates question, “blah, blah, blah”. I was mortified. He laughed, but so unprofessional. (insert face palm emoji)

    4. Yep me too*

      Absolutely always happens to me too. Doesn’t help when they give a 2 part question eg ‘why are you interested in the role and what is something you’ve learned in your current role’. And they’re sitting there with the question right in front of them, they can read it again any time.

    5. Aldabra*

      I just interviewed for a promotion with my current managers and they prepared about 20 situational or what I think of as “short essay, but aloud” questions. I was pretty nervous because it was impossible to prepare for that, so I was just trying to struggle through, and I lost the thread a few times. I did ask if I’d addressed all elements of a question at least once. Didn’t get the promotion but also wasn’t expecting to – someone else with more experience did.

  24. The stranger*

    They asked a question. I blanked. Could not think of any answer, the words escaped me. It wasn’t exactly a curveball either. The question was : “Can you tell us a little bit about you ?”.

    Yeah.

    1. Sunny October*

      Lordy. I remember an interviewer asking what book I had most recently finished and, since I read several at a time, just said “Bleak House” as being one I’d re-read recently. “Oh, is that the one about the Samurai?” the interviewer asked. “Uh, no, that’s “Noble House” by James Clavell. I was reading the one by Charles Dickens.” … just what the interview needed — a literature lesson.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        You know, I feel like the interviewer asked! You gave a really good answer, too–I’m not sure I’d have made the leap to ‘Noble House’. I would have loved that answer, if I were interviewing you.

      2. Blue Horizon*

        I read it for the first time a few years back and enjoyed it. I find Dickens very funny at times (which I didn’t expect given his reputation) and the whole court satire in that book was particularly good in that regard. If you’d caught me at the right time, I would have happily filled 5 minutes talking about that.

    2. Tiny Soprano*

      Oh I do this every time. “Tell us about yourself.”
      My brain: plays the dancing cat meme on repeat.

    3. Sic Transit Vir*

      Ugh, I had the same thing happen to me on a super basic question; it was along the lines of just simply describing some best practices in our field. I blanked HARD, stuttered something that I don’t even remember, and proceeded to spend the rest of the interview trying (ultimately unsuccessfully) to recover.

  25. Warrior Princess Xena*

    In one of my very first interviews, I was asked if I had any questions near the end. I meant to ask something along the lines of “what does the day to day workflow look like”. What came out was “so what do you all actually do here?” I did not get the job.

    1. Seashell*

      My kid is going to a college career fair and called me to ask what to say to the people at each booth. I didn’t have any great answers, but “So, what do you guys do?” was one of my suggestions.

      1. Potato Potato*

        Tbf, that’s a reasonable question when you approach an unknown booth. It’s not when you’re called in for an interview and have had time to prepare

  26. Tio*

    Oooh. My only interview bomb for myself was when I applied for Walgreens for a fairly higher up position, and the interviewer grilled me about SAP software even though I admitted to not having used it before. I’m not sure what she wanted from me, but she would not let it go.

    That said, one of the most mortified I’ve been for an interviewee was when I asked someone their greatest job accomplishment, and they thought for a while before telling me all about how when they left one job, they convinced a client to leave and go to their new job. I think they were going for “They liked me so much they were willing to change companies for me” but all I could think was “That is a huge non-compete violation… why are you telling me this.”

  27. Accounting Otaku*

    Back when I was trying to break out of retail/factory work and into office work I had a interviews lined up on multiple days at different places. Company A was scheduled for Monday and Company B was scheduled for Tuesday at a similar time both in nearby big city. Monday rolls around, and my friend goes with me because we were going to do a mall crawl in big city afterwards. My friends, I messed up and drove to Company B, walked in said I had an interview. They looked at me blankly. I realized I was at the wrong place said so OUT LOUD. I almost died right there. I go out to the car where my friend is waiting tell her about it. We have a quick moment of shared mortification before I quickly book it to Company A for that interview.

    I go back to Company B for the correct interview the next day. Interviewer and I don’t say a word about the day before but it’s clearly the elephant in the room. I did not get the job. I did get the job at Company A which turned out to be an MLM. I left after 3 days.

  28. Lady Blerd*

    When I was a teenager, I interviewed for a job as a Games attendant. I was asked if I’d be willing to yell out to get the attract of passersby to come to our booth, a core part of the job. I said no. Of course I did not get the job and years later, I’m still slapping my forehead for that answer.

    1. Era*

      If it was honest, maybe that was for the best! I imagine they ask specifically because a lot of people actually aren’t willing.

      1. Lady Blerd*

        You are right of course, when I think of myself back then I had not come out of my shell yet. Today I would definitely be able to do it but that is after nearly 30 years working for an org that prizes extroversion so I have had to develop that side of me.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      As a teenager, I interviewed to be a ballpark vendor (a job I definitely did not want but was signed up by my mom for interview practice). I was expecting questions about the customer service aspect, so the question that stumped me was “Who is your hero and why?”

      I can’t remember if I said I didn’t have a hero (which at least would have been true) or tried to wing it, but I did not get the job. However, because of that experience, I was ready the next time I was asked that inane question, but apparently “Steve Martin” isn’t the winning answer either.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I had that as an essay question in 8th grade. I didn’t have a hero, so I decided to copy a friend and wrote about Mother Teresa. I knew nothing about her and disliked organized religion in general and christianity in particular. It was not my best work. I don’t even know how I managed to write more than one sentence.

        I still don’t have a hero, but in retrospect would either explain why or write about my great-grandma, which would at least be personal and interesting.

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        I once competed in a group for spots in a summer learning experience for high school students. There was a prepared speech and then an impromptu speech where you didn’t know the topic until right before you spoke. It was “who do you admire/who is your hero” (can’t remember the wording.) Reader, I was a 16 year old girl who did not have a hero. I managed to make up a 120 second speech about how fabulous Sally Ride, teary eyed in the second half and everything. I still, to this day, have no clue how I managed to nail that one. I did not have an interest in space travel then, nor do I now. But Sally Ride was my hero for 2 minutes.

        Got me the spot in the program even though my application was terrible, though. (It helps that half the girls named Benjamin Franklin, “inventor of the lightbulb,” as their hero.)

  29. CC*

    I have three:

    1.) I was going to my very first ever interview for a professional office job. I asked my dad for advice, but he had always worked field jobs/retail, so the interviewers face fell when I took my dad’s advice and told my interviewer that my greatness strength was punctuality.

    2.) I was recruited for an interview, expecting it to be a very different kind of role. When I got there, as part of their interview process, they handed a brief quiz on technical elements I knew nothing about. When I got to meet a person face to face, I blurted out “I think there’s been a mistake, I don’t know any of these things.” (I actually ended up getting that job, they were willing to train, but hoooo boy was I not feeling good)

    3.) I had a zoom call recently. The interviewer was in another time zone and I had to wake up before 5am to get ready and prepared. As soon as the interviewer logged in, he immediately criticized my choice of wearing a suit for the zoom call, then said right away “I’m looking at your resume and I don’t think you’re a fit, you don’t seem to really have any creativity”. He asked about my work history and projects, then quickly dismissed them out of hand. It was pretty humiliating, especially because he had my resume ahead of time, and if he didn’t think I was a fit, he could have simply declined to interview me. As soon as the interview ended, my wife came into the room and said “I’m guessing you didn’t see a ring on his finger because who would want to marry that jerk!” The company never contacted me again, not even with a boiler plate “Thank you for interviewing, we’re selecting another candidate”.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Right? He clearly was gunning for you from the get-go, CC.

        And I don’t see what was so horrible about the first answer, either. I guess if you were interviewing for tech roles and they want to hear your programming experience, sure, but frankly punctuality counts for a LOT in office jobs. Just ask all the letter writers who deal with perpetually late employees, people who won’t complete paperwork and reports on time, etc.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          You dodged not just a bullet but a battlefield. Any idea if Mr. Creative Disruptor’s business is still functioning?

    1. run mad; don't faint*

      No. 2 reminds me of the math test I was given when I applied for a retail job years ago. I lived in county A; the store was just over the line in county B where the local taxes were a little different than in A. It was all based on totalling fictitious orders at a register. I panicked, decided they wanted to know the price including sales tax, guessed at what the tax was and completely blew the math test in the process. Of course, the test was only check my basic math skills. Needless to say, I didn’t get that job.

      1. Pieforbreakfast*

        I worked at a picture framing shop for years and the paper application had a math test, including adding fractions. The number of people who left without finishing was high.

      1. I Have RBF*

        If someone tried to schedule an interview with me for 5 am my time I would decline it. It shows just how little they are aware of anyone else’s needs or time zones. If I’m setting up the schedule. I try to be considerate of the other person’s time zone.

    2. Throwaway Account*

      I had an interview for a college that included an interview with a professor.
      First, in the admissions office they just told me to go to x office. Most college campuses have terrible wayfinding so it was so hard to find and I was terrified of getting completely lost for hours.
      Second, he was a total jerk and kept demanding that I explain how I thought I could succeed in college when I had not taken Calculus. My high school had a tracking system that started in middle school, I was not in honors math in 6th grade so it was not possible for me to take Calculus in high school in that system.

      He did not let me get a word in edgewise! I tried to explain but he would just cut me off. I was such a sweet girl at that point that I did not know what to do. One of my biggest regrets was that I did not stand up and say something like, “Based on your behavior, this school is not a great fit for me, I’m not interested” and then walk out.

    3. Blue Horizon*

      I get that it feels bad in the moment, but I think your answer for #2 is literally the best one possible. Trying to carry on anyway is a million times worse.

      (This is why I don’t like technical assessments unless you’re very sure they relate to must have requirements for the role).

  30. Metadata Janktress*

    Accidentally used the F word while getting enthusiastic describing a project. Did not get the job.

    1. Ipsissima*

      I did this recently! I immediately apologized, and fortunately my interviewer laughed and replied, “Oh, we swear all the fucken time here!”

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I, too, accidentally swore in an interview, and later learned, after I was hired, that it worked to my benefit.

        1. Macchupeach*

          Yep–I confessed to a different team I was working with for the first time that I’d been scared stiff I’d say “fuck” and piss off their clients, only to be told they were afraid of saying it in front of me! We get along great now.

  31. S*

    I was once interviewing for a job at a school, and the interviewer (the Head of School) asked for an example of how I got buy-in around a program I created. This was after a long day with lots of interviews and so while I was *trying* to say “I had a lot of success with…” what I actually said was “I had a lot of sex with faculty.” I withdrew from that search for many reasons, but this was definitely one of them.

    1. nonprofit writer*

      Haha, this reminds me of my husband’s college graduation, at which one of the deans grandly announced “I wish you all sex! I mean, success!” Lots of cheering from the crowd at that one.

    2. Anon for this one*

      Oh no. Oh no!!!

      I send a lot of emails about the SEC, and it is my great fear that one day I will mistype and bombard everyone in the org with an all-caps update about SEX enforcement activity.

  32. juniper*

    Not me, but someone I was interviewing for an admin role. Question was “Would you describe yourself as an organised person?” It was an entry level role, so we weren’t even looking for the most organised, even saying “No, but I try really hard at it” or “No, but I understand it’s super important and am trying to do better” would have still scored really highly!

    Candidate paused, thought about it for a moment, and then just went “No.”. We made a couple attempts at prompting for more thoughtful answers but they stuck with no!

  33. Thumper*

    Last year I was in the middle of a career transition to UX design, and one of the biggest interview questions I struggled with was “tell me about your design process”. I absolutely had one but it was hard to articulate it for some reason, and I always got stumped. The first time I got stumped on it was my first post-bootcamp job interview at my dream agency. I paused to think about it and then I hear from the recruiter “are you okay?” and that’s when I realized I hadn’t spoken for almost 2 minutes. Still haunts me to this day.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I feel this one. As a graphic designer, I have a really difficult time putting into words, written or spoken, what I can visualize in my head, especially in a way that people who do not visualize things can understand. What’s my design process? it boils down to “think about it until I come up with something that works.”

  34. Ann Onymous*

    I was a sophomore in college interviewing for an internship. I had interviewed before for part-time summer jobs (fast food, retail, etc.), but this was my first time interviewing for a job in my field. I got completely flustered when the interviewer asked me to explain why my GPA was “so low”. I came up with some lame excuse (and did not get the job). In retrospect, I had a 3.9/4.0 GPA. I’m not sure if this was some sort of test and I was supposed to push back on the idea that my GPA was low, or if the interviewer mistakenly thought my school used a weighted GPA with a 5.0 scale, or if they just had ridiculously high expectations. Now 10 years into my career, I can laugh at this, but at the time I spent quite awhile feeling mortified about my GPA.

    1. Another JD*

      I wasn’t getting hits on my resume until I realized I had listed my GPA as 2.7 instead of 3.7! I still have no idea how I missed that in my multiple reviews.

    2. Max*

      Oh gosh, I remember one of the first interviews I had after college, the interviewer made a similar comment: “Hmm, it seems like your GPA could be higher.” (It was 3.7, for the record, and my school didn’t weight either.)

      Just to be clear, this was for an entry-level office job, with no specialized skills required, that mostly involved doing mindless paperwork. I did get the job, and ended up staying there for over a year, but that guy’s casual rudeness stuck with me. In retrospect, it should have been a sign; the job sucked and so did the pay. (In retrospect, I kind of regret that when they called to make me the offer, I didn’t think to respond “Hmm, it seems like the salary could be higher.”)

  35. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    Oh my goodness. This was almost two decades ago and I still laugh/cringe at this one. Like 10% laugh and 90% cringe. Or maybe 1%/99%.

    Anyway. I was in Iraq as a new second Lieutenant, the most junior ranking officer there is. Our two-star commanding general came out to see us and was looking at junior officers to send to desirable professional development positions.

    As part of the discussion, he was telling me how the Office Basic Course (OBC) which I had just graduated from was going to be renamed to BOLC, which stands for “Basic Officer…” and I INTERRUPTED HIM to exclaim cheerfully “Loser Course!”. He looked at me very levelly, and finished “….Leader Course.”

    I was not selected.

    I have no idea what I was thinking. My inner 10 year old boy came out, I guess?

    When I got divorced and changed my name and cut my hair differently, one of my first thoughts was that if I ever saw him again he hopefully wouldn’t recognize me.

    I have never told anyone this story! And I feel better for having shared it in this context. People do cringe things and it’s ok, and that includes me.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Delighted to meet you, fellow awkward 10-year old boy trapped in a middle aged woman’s body.

        Also, when I read this again, I laughed till I cried. It was neat to see myself from that perspective – in the past, awkward but well intentioned, and not as big of a deal as it was still taking up in my brain.

        I am still totally dorky but also fully accepting myself.

        1. Cardboard Marmalade*

          I also found this story almost unbearably relatable. Thank you so much for gifting us with such a gem, and hopefully it does the trick to exorcise it a bit!

    1. Blue Horizon*

      I am wondering whether your fellow junior officers reacted (and if not, how on earth they managed it).

        1. OxfordBlue*

          With hindsight that’s the sort of thing I used to do in my first few jobs especially the part-time ones during vacations. I was so nervous about making a good impression and so utterly clueless about the organisation and my specific tasks that I used to put my foot in my mouth more often than not.
          Thinking about it now, I wonder if senior people see this sort of behaviour more often than not.

          1. Wolf*

            Believe me, it’s years of training to reach a perfectly calm “I’ll pretend you did not say that” face.

  36. tangy*

    I came to an interview all prepared with examples of relevant work, stories about how I’d worked with all the tech mentioned in the job description… the works. During the interview they asked me questions almost exclusively about things I did not expect to hear about, and that I bungled answering because it was so different from what I had prepared that it was hard to switch mental tracks. It felt like I had somehow ended up in the wrong interview. Very disorienting.

    At the end, when they asked if I had any questions, I asked “the job description mentions working with X, can you tell me about that?.” (X being my area of expertise, the main focus of the job ad, and something they hadn’t brought up once.) The response: “This job doesn’t do anything with X, HR posts all jobs with the same description regardless of what the position actually does.” THEN they explained what I was actually interviewing for, right before they kicked me out to talk to the next candidate. The worst part is it was a job I would have liked to do, and that I was qualified to do, and I probably could have interviewed well for if I had any idea what I was going into.

    They did not call me back.

      1. Observer*

        That sounds less like bombing an interview and more like dodging a bullet!

        Agreed!

        Who posts all jobs with the same description regardless of the actual job? Who sets up an interview without at least SOME heads up? And what was the idiot interviewer thinking in not telling the person they are interviewing what job they are interviewing for when you know that none of the descriptions posted mean anything?

        This is not just a not-great HR department. It’s an incompetent HR department, management that lets them get away with it and a culture that doesn’t even do the minimum to work around the issues.

    1. Kes*

      Honestly that one is on them, what an awful company practice. And they’re really doing themselves a disservice as well as you.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      What an awful HR and recruiting practice! Why?

      Not only a colossal waste of everyone’s time, but I’m betting they have trouble finding good candidates because they are being all Secret Squirrel about what they are actually looking for.

      With the added bonus of guaranteeing most candidates will have the RL equivalent of that awful nightmare where you dream you’re showing up to the first day of class, and realize it’s the actually the last day, final exam day of an important course you need, and you have no clue!

      1. I Have RBF*

        Oh, gods, the surprise final in a class I never attended nightmare, complete with not being able to find the classroom and walking in late to a final in a high level class.

        Yes, I’ve had that nightmare.

        1. My Cabbages!*

          I’m a college professor. I now have dreams about forgetting to teach a class all semester or showing up to an exam but I forgot to write it.

          1. Office Gumby*

            I gotta story for you:
            Once upon a long time ago I attended a class all semester. Worked really hard, got good grades on my assignments, etc. A week before the end of the semester, my prof calls me up at the end of class and says, “I don’t have you on my roll. You’re not enrolled in this class.”
            Whut?
            It was far too late to officially enroll. You’d think he would have noticed I wasn’t properly enrolled earlier. (Granted, this was back in the day when most everything was on paper. Who knew what slipped through the cracks?)
            I was so upset. I did NOT want to take that class again, yet it was a necessary prerequisite for the next level up. Like any true uni student, I shoved this dreadful experience to the side and pretended it hadn’t happened.
            Next year rolls around. I know, I should have womanned up and taken the class again, but I couldn’t bring myself around to do it. So I signed up for the upper-level class that needed this one class as a pre-rec.
            Who was teaching it? The same prof. He began the class by announcing that unless we’d taken X and Y pre-recs, we weren’t supposed to be in here. (A few others had also tried to sneak in.) He calls out a few names and kicks them out, then he looks at me.
            My stomach dropped, but instead of kicking me out, he said, “Didn’t you take my X class last year?”
            “I was there all semester,” until you told me I hadn’t enrolled.
            He frowned, made a note, and said, “I remember you.”
            I stayed, I passed, I eventually graduated. When I got my official transcript, sure enough, the class I wasn’t enrolled in was on there, and it seems I passed with full marks.

    3. LucyGoosy*

      This happened to me once, too! I thought I was interviewing for a job at a hospital in their Corporate Social Responsibility arm arranging opportunities for children at local schools to learn about medical careers through the hospital. I planned my whole interview around exactly that. During the interview, the interviewer stopped me and said, “Um, this position is NOT about planning partnerships or finding new opportunities for education. We have a framework and established partners. We’re hiring someone just to coordinate school visits with the surgeon.” Could have heard a pin drop, there was the most agonizing awkward silence. Then I said, “…Sorry, I talked to the recruiter in HR, they said…” and they went, “Yeah, we don’t know what HR does. This is not a partnership building position.”

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      What was the service they provided, shooting themselves in both feet? I can’t imagine a less efficient way to interview!

    5. Dragonfly7*

      Posting job descriptions that don’t match the actual job is a huge red flag. I agree with the others who said you dodged a bullet.
      I have had multiple of those, but the worst was the one that said it was hiring to do tours at a historic museum, but the interview questions were about my experience with building restoration, maintenance, and landscaping.

  37. ThatGirl*

    I’d been unceremoniously fired from my last newspaper job and got some interviews fairly quickly but had not practiced my answer to “why did you leave your last job” or “have you ever been fired from a job”. At my first real interview I just totally panicked and stammered and mumbled my way through and I’m sure I did not leave a good impression. Realized after that that I really needed to have a smoothly prepared answer, explanation and reassurance for why that particular mistake was in my past.

  38. Elle*

    Very first interview out of college for a grown up job in a big NYC museum, pre cell phones. I forgot the name of the person I was interviewing with and had no clue what department they worked in. I had a nice portfolio with my resume but no interview details. The very nice front desk person helped me figure it out. I did not get the job.

    1. Hannah Lee*

      I work at a company located near several other companies. At least twice a week someone shows up at our front door “I’m here for an interview” and they are looking for a completely different company.

      I’m like, did you not see the big logo with OUR company name hanging above the entrance and splashed across the front door? (and some blank when I ask what company they are looking for)

      So at least you went to the right company.

  39. BH*

    Ha! I totally did that this past summer. It was so bad I stopped it 10 minutes in, apologized for wasting their time and hit the leave button as fast as I could. I’m sure they’re still talking about how weird I was. But OMG, it was awful! I just completely went brain dead! That was the last 8 AM interview I’ll ever do over Zoom.

  40. Carlie*

    Years ago, I was broke AF, working in customer service and desperate to escape. I was applying for anything and everything and got a few interviews. This one interview was a bit of a drive away, I didn’t understand public transit at the time and couldn’t afford the gas to do a test run. Needless to say I got horribly, hopelessly lost, after my satnav tried to send me down a forest track. I had a panic attack and turned up (late) at the job interview crying and basically hyperventilating. Not sure why I went through with the interview, as I was in such a state I couldn’t really remember what the job was. Interview = BOMBED.

    1. A (Former) Library Person*

      I feel this. Once on my way to an interview I took a wrong turn while driving from the hotel to the office and ended up on a two-lane road among seemingly endless cornfields.

    2. Esmae*

      I got horribly lost on the way to an internship interview, didn’t have GPS, left a series of increasingly hysterical and apologetic voice mails for the person I was supposed to interview with, and finally got there 45 minutes late. Surprisingly I got the internship.

    3. I Have RBF*

      I got lost looking for a building in another city that had abysmal signage. I must have circled their block three times before I called and asked where the building was, and where to park. It had really tiny numbers and no signage, plus their parking lot was weird to get to, but they acted like I was the idiot. Yes, I was late, but both Google maps and their directions sucked rocks. IMO, I dodged a bullet.

    4. allathian*

      When I was in college, I went to the wrong company for an interview. Thankfully I always arrive early, so when I realized my mistake I scrambled and ran half a mile to the right address. I arrived a few minutes late, flushed and sweaty, apologized for being late, and because I hate being late to anything, I told the person who met me in the lobby of the building that I got lost on the way.

      I have no idea how I got through that interview, but needless to say, I didn’t get the job. This was long before GPS and satnav. The job was for a cab company, where the drivers could call control on the radio if they didn’t know how they were supposed to get to the address the client wanted to go to. I applied for a job at control…

  41. Lorna*

    Whilst waoton in the interview room for the hiring manager to arrive for our chat, I decided NOW would be the perfect time to practice my duck face ( I was young, I was stupid, I’m sorry) – and then the door opened. Instead of returning to my normal, every day expression, I continued to talk with my lips exaggeratedly pursed throughout the whole interview. Looking and probably sounding like a loon.
    I didn’t get the job.

  42. Chocoholic*

    I got an interview at a really respected insurance company when I was shortly out of college. It would have been a great learning experience.

    The interviewer asked me how I dealt with stress (something along those lines) and I said, jokingly, I thought, “heavy drinking”. I then said I was kidding, and then answered the question for real, but really?! WTF kind of an answer is that? Obviously I was also very inexperienced at interviewing.

    1. Cordelia*

      oh I once interviewed someone for a healthcare position and asked this question, and they said “I drink a lot”, but without any kind of smile or signal that it was meant as humour, although I think it probably was. They didn’t say anything else, just sat and waited for the next question. At least you went on to answer the question for real! No, they didn’t get the job.

    2. Moda Comfort*

      I just got that question in an interview, and inside my head, I totally answered “heavy drinking.”

      Outside my head, I answered something different.

  43. Penny*

    I got bored and irritated during an interview in which the interviewers themselves looked bored and irritated. They asked pointless questions (the kind where you have to lie in your answer because nobody would be honest) in monotones and didn’t seem at all interested in my responses. Their responses to my questions didn’t actually answer my questions.

    Anyway, I got so bored and irritated that all I could think about was my boredom and irritation and how much I would hate to work with these people. This manifested itself in my being able to form only incoherent sentences and at one point I said something like, ‘Oh I don’t know – it’s too hot to think’.

    I think they emailed some interview feedback to me afterwards but I deleted the message without reading it.

    1. CheeryO*

      Ugh, I have a terrible time interviewing when the person is clearly uninterested. Last time that happened to me, I started blabbering on about stories I used to write as a kid when I was asked about technical writing. Oops.

  44. Carlie*

    I got the classic “what would your coworkers describe as your weaknesses” question and for some reason I replied “people say I don’t blink enough” wtf was I thinking….
    To his credit, the interviewer thought it was a funny response and said “stop staring at me!”
    Didn’t get the job though.

    1. Saturday eve-eve*

      16 year me, first ever job interview, when asked to describe my biggest weakness…

      Sat there staring ahead for a solid 60 seconds, then said, “I can’t think of any.”

      Didn’t get the job.

  45. cardigarden*

    This one was so painful in the moment.

    I was interviewing for field study placements, reaching out to contacts in my grad school’s database. I found one that sounded interesting, reached out, and they set up a phone interview. By this point, I had been living in my apartment long enough to know that cell service had trouble getting through the brick walls, but I had previously had decent coverage from one particular seat at the kitchen table. Usually. Did it that day? Nope. I turn my head a bit to the left, and the call drops. So I call back, except for that the contact number I had was not the number for whatever conference room the group was taking the call in.

    I wait for them to call back (they did). Five minutes later, I move my head a bit to the right and the call drops again. They call back again, and the conversation continues up to the point that I’m realizing there is fully incorrect information in my program’s database and that I’m wildly unqualified for the work they’re describing.

    The person finishes talking and I just straight up say: “Um. So. I’m just realizing that my program gave me completely wrong information about what your unit does. I don’t know how to do what you’d need me to do, and I wouldn’t have set this up if I had the correct info. I’m so sorry for wasting your time BYE.” And I ended the call.

    I also went out and set up a landline phone so I’d never have to worry about an important call dropping again.

    1. MsM*

      Honestly, sounds like you handled that as best you could, all things considered. The real problem here was the database. (Well, and the cell service, but you did at least try to address that in advance.)

  46. V*

    I don’t think I did anything wrong in this interview, per se, but it was the worst/toughest interview I’ve had in my 20+ year career. I was personally recommended by the department director (for a job in their department) at a very prestigious museum. I met with the HR person 1:1 first. They looked at my resume and said, “You seem overqualified for this job.” That was their opening line and I think it’s sort of a trick statement. Do you say, “Why yes, I’m way overqualified!” or insist you’re actually not that qualified and risk looking like you couldn’t do the job? I responded that I was flattered, and then explained that while I had many transferable skills, the position would still be a challenge because of x, y, z. I thought my answer was pretty good considering it caught me off guard. But it didn’t get better after that. I remember leaving the interview so dejected; and I didn’t get the job. Later I got a job where I had to go by that museum every day on my commute. It was like a daily reminder of my failure and that interview.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Sometimes you just get a cranky or rude interviewer and there’s nothing you can do to improve the tone.

      1. V*

        I think that was just the MO for either that particular HR person – or possibly the entire HR department. (Since the museum is so prestigious they can be like that, I guess. People will still want to work there regardless.) Someone I went to grad school with later had an interview with the same HR person and said the HR person was really tough. I’m fairly certain his exact words were that they were a “ball buster.”

    2. Cedrus Libani*

      There’s a hotel near me that I stayed at for three separate job interviews. I lived on the other side of the USA at the time, so each interview required two days of airports and planes in addition to at least a full day on site talking to people. Didn’t get any of those jobs, for various reasons, none of which were remotely the hotel’s fault. Also the last time this happened was in 2010. I still hiss like a disgruntled cat every time I pass by.

      1. Amykins*

        I have a full on (one-sided) feud with Aflak because of a bait-and-switch interview they pulled with me when I was in college. (Apparently not an uncommon practice for them.) I went there to interview for a web development internship and ended up in a group interview for B2B commission-based sales. The worst part is, I spent most of that interview thinking I had somehow messed up and was missing the real interview somewhere and felt such deep shame and embarrassment that I ended up fleeing the premises during a break halfway-through.

  47. Not Sending My Best*

    I was interviewing for an entry level job in my field after having been out of work for two years. I had been out of work for two years because I had fallen into one of those terrible relationships where they control your finances and everything you do. I hadn’t spoken to anyone besides my then-partner and his family in a long time. And I had certainly not spoken to anyone in a professional capacity in a long time. I am awkward and self conscious in the best of situations, and this was not the best of situations.

    Reader, I babbled about how badly I wanted to get back to work because I was trapped (AND PHRASED IT THIS WAY), I babbled about how I loved my work but hated management, I talked about details of my previous employer that are open secrets around town but You Don’t Say It. I babbled about everything. It took four interviews like this before a friend from grad school mercifully hired me. I am doing great now but YIKES.

    1. Retrospective embarrassment*

      I’m so sorry you went through this and I’m so glad you get a job and I’m glad you are doing well. That sounds like a great friend from grad school :)

      Not as intense but on a similar vein, I desperately needed a job and my friend knew a family who wanted a mother’s helper for their LOVELY daughter because they were about to have baby number two. The family was great, the little girl was great but they could only offer 10-20 hours a week so I took a different job at 40 hours a week at a preschool which ended up being the worst, most stressful job I’ve had in my life (I worked there a decade ago and stand by this statement). I was crying on a daily basis due to stress of the preschool and since I desperately needed money I contacted the lovely family by email and went into way too much detail about how horrible and stressful my job was and asking them if they would give me a second chance.

      The dad, who again was so nice, sent me a really nice reply but confirmed they didn’t need the mother’s helper anymore and I’m slightly mortified when I think about it.

      1. Not Sending My Best*

        Thank you! Ten years later I am living my best life and excelling and it all comes back to my friend being willing to open that door. I love your story too – it’s really amazing how our brains just short circuit and bypass everything we know when we’re under stress. Funny now, NOT funny then!

  48. Bruce*

    The examples Alison gives are excruciating… I don’t think I’ve bombed one quite that way but when I was a college senior I went to an on-site interview at a defense contractor shortly after having the flu… as the day dragged on I became more and more bleak about the idea of working at that place… this combined with still being weak and manifested as a raging headache so bad that I could barely hold my head up. They were very kind about it, 2 weeks later I got a nice letter saying they weren’t interested. This was a relief, actually, but at the time I was worried about my prospects overall… then I got a great offer that started me on my lifelong career… whew!!!

    1. Bruce*

      The follow up is that this defense company went through a lot in the years after I bombed the interview, they were very old-school cold-war tech, got diced up and scattered to the winds as far as I could tell…

  49. Ainsley*

    I talk very fast if I’m not conscious of it, and once during an interview for a teaching job, the principal interrupted me to ask if I ever done radio DJ work, because he had never heard someone talk so fast yet speak so clearly. (It was a dig hidden as a “compliment.”) I sobbed the entire way home from the interview. I am no longer a teacher and my mental health is better for it!

      1. Ainsley*

        It was at least a decade ago – I find it amusing at this point! I didn’t find it amusing then though!

  50. Ex-prof*

    them: Why should we hire you instead of somebody else?

    me: I don’t know. Maybe you should hire someone else. It’s true I need the money, but there might be other people who need it more. Like if they have children to support.

  51. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    On the academic job market, I tanked a teaching demonstration. I was supposed to have a 75min class, a snowstorm canceled classes the day I arrived, so I was pushed to a 50 min class and I clearly cut out the wrong parts of the material to make it fit. Like, awkward silence, no student engagement, it was terrible. Honestly one of the worst classes I’ve ever taught, period. I really wanted that job, too — I woke up the day after I flew back home in a cold sweat from the anxiety about how bad it had been. A friend of mine got it (which I found out when she posted on FB before anyone called me from the job itself — gotta love academia), and she’s done really well there. But honestly, I was probably going to leave academia eventually anyways, so I’m not that torn up anymore.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Not academia, but high school here; teaching interviews are the absolute worst especially when plans get changed.

    2. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

      Oh I have a good story about that:
      When I was in undergrad we had a guest lecturer who was there as part of a job interview. She was clearly under the impression that the class would have done the required readings…but nobody had. Except me, apparently – the faculty brat whose faculty parent was friends with the person interviewing. I was already familiar enough with the subject matter that I had skimmed the one reading with which I was less familiar the night before and moved on to the next thing on my lengthy to-do list.

      So she is trying to hold a discussion with a completely silent class. Of course she ended up calling on me constantly because she knew my name (and also I could actually answer most of the questions). Usually I tried to not act like a know-it-all in classes in my parent’s field, even though everyone knew I was a faculty brat, so it was super uncomfortable all around.

      She did not get the job. I still feel bad for her!

  52. Jester*

    I’m not sure whose fault this really was but I had an all-day interview where I met with six different people. It was a long slog, and it was becoming more clear it wasn’t really a good fit with each new person. Last up was HR, where I was informed that the salary was incredibly low. So low, that I laughed right in HR’s face. For some reason, I never heard back.

    1. Jojo*

      They put you through all of that and only then low balled you? Sorry, this is on them. You should count this as a win.

    2. anomnom*

      I’m job-hunting and am convulsing with laughter at your response…god, you’re my hero. Thank you for letting me live vicariously

    3. AngryOctopus*

      I had a second interview day, half day with lunch with some people. First interview was with dept heads, someone from HR, and a higher up colleague (in science it’s usual to meet with several people across lab functions). Second was head of department, colleagues at my level, and a lot of others. Got a bad impression from those at my level (asked what the day to day is like, normally people respond with a variation on hours people work and meetings, these people said IT’S DIFFERENT DAY TO DAY, I CAN’T REALLY ANSWER THAT QUESTION), so I wasn’t feeling great about it. Then came the Long Slog of 4-5 30′ blocks where 1-nobody would be involved in working with me and hence 2-nobody seemed to have even looked at my resume, never mind read it. So much time on “oh, why are you leaving company X” and having to say “well, as you can see, I’m currently a temp covering a maternity leave, and it ends on Date”. And them not knowing what to say after that. It was so bad. I did follow up with them later out of a misguided sense of completeness, after I had another offer, and the HR rep emailed me addressing me by my first initial and in a no caps run on sentence, informed me that they were “going in another direction”. Just sealing the “wow, that would have been a Bad Fit” deal for me.

    4. I Have RBF*

      I had one job that was trying to convert me from temp to perm, and offered me two thirds of what I was making as a contractor. Even with benefits, that was a joke. I literally laughed at them. It was less than what I started at in academia in 2015.

  53. Adereterial*

    I was young, and in a job I needed but hated working with people who didn’t understand that I was human, not a robot, and therefore would occasionally make mistakes – like typos or misreading something. I was interviewing for another role and they asked me why I was leaving and I was so stressed and angry I proceeded to trash talk my current employer for about 15 minutes. Did not get the job. Probably for the best – the other company went best about 6 weeks later so…

    I deliberately bombed an interview once – I was on unemployment benefits in the UK and that came (still does) with a requirement to apply for a certain number of jobs per week – and they sent me to an interview for what was supposed to be a marketing admin role, which I was well suited for. Got there and it was obvious it was door to door sales – nope. Not doing that. I’d have been obligated to take it had they offered it so I gave truly dreadful answers to the questions in the hope they wouldn’t. They didn’t…

    1. You want stories, I got stories*

      I hate when they turn a marketing job into a sales position. That was an interview I did once. It was a marketing assistant position, but during the interview, the person focused on sales. I finally said, “this sounds like a sales position?” Which she responded that yes it was and she had advertised for that. No she had not, she was hiring for a marketing assistant position. You want a salesman, then you need to advertise for a sales position.

    2. ErinWV*

      I went to an interview once where the interviewers spent the entire time trash-talking the place where I was working at that time. “Oh they do everything weirdly there, we’ll have to teach you proper procedure.” “You work on that software? I can’t believe they can even afford that software.” I didn’t love the job I was at, but I felt so personally attacked nonetheless.

    3. Tanks for the love*

      I did that once when I realized it was an independent contractor sales job, similar door to door, but B2B, for a job no one would want.
      Them: would you describe yourself as a real go-getter?
      Me: no, not really.
      That was in person.

      2 years later I interviewed at a different company name at the same address… at a similar organization… but this time it was a group interview online. One interviewer, 3 people being interviewed. I am not super privileged but outwardly you might think so, and I have a graduate degree. Of the 3 people being interviewed I was probably the least desperate for a position and I tried to use my privilege to advocate for the 2 other people being interviewed.

      Interviewer: if I asked you to come in tomorrow to fill out paperwork and start work (as an independent sales contractor B2B door to door during a pandemic) would you be available?
      2 other interviewees: yes! What time?

      Me: no I definitely haven’t planned for that and I have things planned and responsibilities so maybe I could next week if that works with your schedule? But if you need someone right away, I don’t think that’s me right now

      I hope it turned out ok for those interviewees
      It did for me since I don’t recall hearing back from that interview at all

    4. Nameless*

      Advertising for an HR or marketing position, but then telling the person they have to start in sales seems like a really common MLM/scam tactic.

  54. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    OMG! Ask and you shall receive, indeed:
    Years ago, I went to an interview for an HR role at a detention center where the state sends sex offenders who have served their prison term, but are not yet deemed safe to enter society in general. Call it a halfway jail, if you will. I would have been HR for the guards and the doctors trying to help these people become safe citizens.

    I was given a tour of where the “inmates” (for lack of a better word) lived. It’s not a jail, remember… but sometimes HR needs to enter the main facility in order to chase down an employee, or if an employee wants to talk to HR but can’t leave their post. This way, if I was weirded out, I could take myself out of the running.

    Nothing bad happened, for the record.

    At the end of the tour, my would-be supervisor said that I would be given the tools to address inappropriate behavior from the inmates, if I ever encountered it. Then, because I’m a genius, I said the following: “My mom said that if I see someone engaging in inappropriate behavior, I should just laugh at them. Since they’re trying to get a rise out of me, it’s better to just laugh.”

    Yeah… my mom had given me that advice about 20 years before, when I’d traveled alone as a TEENAGER to a busy European city where I’d seen a homeless man behaving inappropriately and I’d become upset and called her. Not surprisingly, the advice didn’t apply and I did not get the job.

    1. TootSweet*

      Thank you for giving me my best laugh of the week! I work for a correctional health care company, and we run the health care unit in a facility just like this. I will say, though, that we train our employees on how to deal with…inappropriate behavior. :) But here’s my own funny story back at you: This particular facility houses sexual predators. I once asked the site manager if she had any anxiety about working there. She said no, that the detainees are mostly old and overweight, and she can outrun them.

      1. The Other Evil HR Lady*

        LOL!! I wonder if outrunning them is part of training…

        *Why* would I say something like that, though?! If I’d been fresh out of school and had never worked anywhere, ever, I can sort of see myself saying something like, “my mom said blah-blah-blah.” But I was almost forty years old!

        1. Tanks for the love*

          My mom would be so proud of how I inadvertently end up talking about her at inappropriate times

          Mom! Get out of my head you are so embarrassing!

        2. TootSweet*

          LOL! No, outrunning them is not part of the training. :) Anything inappropriate is to be 1) called out in the moment as inappropriate, and 2) reported to a correctional officer or even the warden, so that they can write up the detainee. We train employees to shut it down in this manner so that they know they don’t have to put up with it and so the detainees know that it will be cause problems for them. At the same time, the detainees are getting mental health treatment that aims toward behavioral change.

  55. Office Lobster DJ*

    I don’t remember most of what I actually said, but I once had an interviewer lead me into a conference space with several walls of windows. Very nice room, but unfortunately taking the seat across from him meant the sun was blazing directly into my eyes. And I mean directly into my eyes. Painfully so.

    Nowadays, I’d just say something and shift seats, no big deal, but I guess at the time it just did not occur to me. (I was very young) So I conducted this interview squinting and grimacing in his direction, alternating with bouts of watery eyes and rapid blinking…at least when I wasn’t ducking my head altogether.

    I did not get the job, but I have always wondered if it was an oversight or a test.

  56. MigraineMonth*

    In the days before I had a smartphone (or a car), I had an interview a couple hours’ drive away. So I rented a car, printed out directions from MapQuest, and drove 60 miles the wrong way on an interstate. Showed up over an hour late (amazingly, they didn’t just cancel on me).

    Then they started me off with an assessment test that asked how comfortable I was with machining parts and building according the a blueprint. (I have never done either of those things in my life, and I have no idea how it was relevant for a software dev job.)

    1. Bruce*

      Oh yeah! Now I remember! I once was late to an interview to be re-hired for a summer job I’d worked the previous summer… I took the wrong fork in the MacArthur Maze in Oakland. Got there 20 minutes late, the interview committee were not impressed with my apology. When they asked me about how I made the mistake I said something about not being a very experienced driver and my parents usually drove through that part of town. Again, did not go over well. In my defense I’d commuted by bike the previous summer, riding through a hostile part of town to get to work every day. The coup-de-grace was when they said “your file says you are accident prone, want to tell us about that?” The summer before I’d gone home one time after crushing my finger handling a log, I came back and worked the next day… Did not get re-hired, but found a better job after all…

      1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

        Dude, agents of hell definitely designed the MacArthur Maze and you were simply the hapless soul recharging their demonic energy that day. When one is simultaneously on 80 East and 580 West while driving north, eldritch forces are at play.

    2. Kayem*

      I once got a call from an interviewer asking if I was running late. I realized I mixed up the vet appointment with my interview. Instead of claiming something like stuck in traffic and rescheduling, I blurted out the actual reason. The job required being able to accurately track scheduling commitments so my chances were pretty much done for at that point.

    3. LadyVet*

      Oh, this reminded me of one.

      I was a few months out of college, had moved back home to at least work part-time while sending resumes, and got an interview at the paper in the town where I went to school.

      I made arrangements to stay with a friend, we took my suit to get tailored… and the morning of, the tailor didn’t open in time for me to get my suit. I decided on a dress, and on the way down spilled coffee on it. Got lost once I got to town, since I hadn’t spent much time further than walking distance of campus, and just driving around was weird.

      I *think* the conversational part of the interview was fine, but then they asked me to take a skills test, and I was just wholly unprepared.

      I know now that those are common in my field, but hadn’t been asked for one in my first degree-related interview, and I guess we just never covered the process of getting a job in any of my classes.

      I stared at the test for a long time, skipped to the questions I could answer, knew that it was getting to the time my friend was expecting me. The hiring manager “kindly” gave me more time, and I think at one point I just said, “I didn’t know to study and I’d rather just go.”

      Did not get that job!

  57. M*

    I was interviewing for graphic design positions and was bringing an iPad to show my digital portfolio. I dropped it in the parking lot on the way in and smashed the screen to smithereens. Somehow still got the job.

  58. Making Change*

    My very first interview was for a fast-food job, and the owner asked me to make change. She said something like, “If my bill comes to $5.17 and I hand you a $10, what do you give me in change?” I thought for a few seconds and said, “$4.43!”

    She gave me a strange look and said, “No, it would be $4.83.” I panicked and said, “There’s 60 cents in a dollar, right?”

    Another strange look. “No, there’s 100 cents in a dollar.”

    My genius reply? “I got an A in calculus!”

    I’ve been haunted by this ever since.

      1. Shrimp Emplaced*

        This made my entire day! All 2400 minutes of it! There are 100 minutes in an hour, right?

        Still grinning at your calculus response too. Thank you for sharing this with us :D

  59. bripops*

    Oh I’ve got a good one! I applied for an executive assistant job to an who executive ran a department really major, billion-dollar company. I really needed work, and my first interview was directly with him: he explained that he thought long hiring processes were dumb, was only interviewing five people he was very serious about, and would be letting me know either way because he didn’t believe in ghosting candidates who’d come in for an interview.

    The job sounded right in my wheelhouse but I couldn’t focus and neither could he. Why? We were in his corner office with two walls of floor to ceiling windows and the interview was at the perfect time of day for the sun to hit the building and turn the place into a GREENHOUSE. I was dressed for March in Canada and was sweating so much that it was running into my eyes, down over my mouth, soaking my hair, the occasional drop coming off my nose; it was awful. He eventually interrupted me mid-sentence to ask if I was okay, and when I mentioned the heat he was like “oh, yeah, I lived in Australia my whole life until I moved to the UAE for two years for work, I’ve only been here a few months so I forget that people here react to heat differently than I do, I honestly didn’t even realize”

    He turned on a fan and handed me a tissue but it was too little too late, I answered a few more questions and despite his whole thing about not ghosting candidates, I never heard from him again

  60. Edie W*

    I once interviewed for a teaching position and one of the questions was essentially “tell us about a good teacher you had in the past and what you learned from them”. Again this interview was *for a teaching position*, I absolutely should have been prepared for this kind of question, but every teacher I had ever had just completely flew out of my head. I had nothing. I talked about Tim Gunn on Project Runway. (Somewhat surprisingly I did get moved to the next round of interviews, although I did not get the job.)

  61. Utrecht*

    My first professional interview. I had prepared by reading a lot of the (academic) articles that the team had published, but not by actually thinking about what they would ask me (and essentially all the things in Allison’s excellent ‘preparing for an interview’ manual that I now direct my graduating students to).
    They asked me about what I’d done when I had a conflict with someone at work. I went blank. I said that I never had a conflict with anyone at work. The professor sighed. He asked me to imagine having a conflict with someone – what would I do? I went blank. I quietly panicked. I finally said I would run away and hide. He sighed again. We moved on to how I would approach one of their research topics, and I finally got my brain to re-engage.
    They offered me the job, which I still can’t understand. I politely declined, and accepted another job, with a team that regularly held screaming matches, and I would run away and lock myself in a cupboard.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I honestly think some interviewers ask incredibly stupid questions. If you’ve never had a conflict with someone at work it’s probably because you don’t go around deliberately imagining such a thing, why on earth would you and what use is a made up answer anyway? It would have been better to ask you why that was, or to put a good specific example in front of you.

      1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

        I hate this question. I haven’t had a conflict at work, or at least nothing significant enough to remember and give as an answer. It’s not something that happens in my role. The only conflict I did have was when a new manager joined the team, ignored everything my previous manager had said about where I was at for my performance rating for the year (which determined pay rises), and gave me a lower rating. I raised a grievance, we went to mediation, I lost – and through other circumstances left that team. So I also don’t think that makes a good example to use.

        1. amoeba*

          Eh, I don’t think it needs to be a fully blown clash/argument though! I’d guess most reasonable hiring managers would be completely fine with something like “oh, I’ve been lucky enough not to have any major conflicts with people, but this is about a time when I had a difference of opinion with a colleague about a project and that’s how we came to an agreement…”

          Which, honestly, I’d assume the large majority of people have had at some point? It doesn’t need to be something dramatic, I’d totally go for “my boss wanted to paint the teapots pink, I was of the opinion that blue would be better, raised my point, we decided to get some additional information from stakeholder X and finally settled on purple, with which we were both happy”.

  62. Juicebox Hero*

    I once had a truly dreadful interview for the chem lab manager position at a university. I was stuck in a heinous retail job and the thought of getting out of there plus actually putting my degree to some use was euphoria-inducing.

    From the get-go it was obvious that the dept. head had zero interest in hiring me or even talking to me. Even the other woman sitting in on the interview – I forget what role she had – was looking at me sympathetically by the end. Because Dr. Jerk did things like:

    Ask me personal questions then snap at me that she didn’t care about my life.

    Asked horribly difficult technical questions and all but gloated when I couldn’t answer them off the top of my head (I did manage to smack her gob by answering a few).

    Answered her phone and had a lengthy conversation while I sat there staring into space.

    Just plain vanished without a word halfway through the tour of the labs; the nice lady from the interview and a very kind professor finished the tour with me and thanked me for coming and wished me good luck.

    I went home and cried and had a major anxiety attack and even my mother was nice to me about things. It was years before I was able to even think of interviewing again.

    I still fantasize about getting gracefully to my feet halfway through the torture, sarcastically thanking Dr. Jerk for her time, sincerely telling the nice lady it was good to meet her and I hoped she’d have a nice day, and walking out with my head held high (to go home and bawl and have an anxiety attack).

    1. FromCanada*

      I totally relate to the fantasy – my worst interview was a second over lunch for what was in theory a recent grad position and it was horrible. It was supposed to be a marketing role but it wasn’t really – they insisted I give them a pitch to sell their product (that I had never seen or used – it was a start up) and were rude not just to me but also to the waiter. I wanted to sink into the floor and I too have fantasized about saying thanks but not thanks and walking out – oh and apologizing to the waiter on my way out. I didn’t get the job and by the end I didn’t want it!

  63. Nope, not British!*

    I was interviewing for my first “real” job after grad school. My interviewer was from England. I was a nervous wreck. It was about halfway through the interview that I realized I was imitating her accent. I am most definitely not from England. Did not get that job.

    1. Samesies*

      OMG – I did that, too! They definitely thought I was mocking them. Nope, no job offer. Shocker!

  64. Diatryma*

    I once convinced an interview panel, which included a neighbor I was friendly with, that I was rigid and potentially violent… in an interview for a copyediting job.

    There are jokes/stories one tells to friends, and those one tells to interviewers. “That time I punched a man in the throat in an argument over the semicolon,” is the former, turns out. I thought it was a charming anecdote about how important punctuation can be! Also there were extenuating circumstances! Also also I was right!

    1. Amok Amuck*

      As a former copy editor, I’m already on your side, but I simply MUST know the throat-punching story!

    2. Diatryma*

      Okay so: I am staff at a writer’s workshop, and we get on the subject of punctuation again, like you do. I am firmly on Team Semicolon; it is my favorite, because it feels like a gesture, a way to connect thoughts smoothly and without a break, kind of the way I actually talk. Prose needs semicolons sometimes. A friend was, probably hyperbolically, on Team No Semicolons Ever Just Ban Them. After a while, I said that sentences shouldn’t be choppy and coming out of nowhere, but should flow. But what if you want to break up the flow, he asked, like BAH! and he jumped at me.

      I maintain, when not telling the short version of the story, that I backfisted him in the chest; witnesses say nope, throatpunch. I thanked him for it, since I have a pretty strong startle reflex and am more likely to cower than fight.

      And then I told the story at an interview and did not get the job.

      1. Hazle Weatherfield*

        I’m Team Semicolon and am totally on your side. Also, people who go for the startle-jump get what they deserve.

  65. teensyslews*

    Had an interview that I expected to be 75% behavioural with the manager and 25% technical with a peer on the team. Nope! Turns out it was 75% technical with the peer and he wanted to me describe screen-by-screen steps for a system I had not used for the last 9 months. Obviously I could not remember the exact steps (nor do I think it was a reasonable ask – you’d obviously remember if the screen was in front of you!) and the interview was a lot of “well I don’t remember exactly what but the theory behind this process is to do XYZ”. Peer was clearly more interested in the exact steps than the theory.
    The remaining 25% was with the manager – who showed up 35 minutes late – and was clearly working on emails through his part of the interview process.
    I did not get the job, but also in hindsight, it would not have been a good fit.

  66. Polaris*

    Filed under “did what I was supposed to do and still….”

    Scheduled interview with a particular company. Do research on company. Learn that they are the sales representative in my state for a particular branded industry product. Learned the ins and outs of this product, examples, yada yada

    “What do you know about our company?”
    “Oh, you’re the sales representative for XYZ in our State…”
    ::look of abject disgust on face of ownership::
    ::look of confusion on my face::
    “Yes. We signed a legal separation document with that company yesterday….suffice it to say that we will be subcontracting out all of our warranty work based on that document”

    Did I get the job? Yes. Did the owner hold it against me that I’d done what “I was supposed to do”? No. Was it still awkward as absolute eff? Yes.

  67. A nonny moose*

    I have pretty bad interview anxiety and during university went to an interview where I just completely panicked and literally could not answer anything. It was a technical interview and they had some code they wanted me to review and spot errors in and I just overthought everything and wasn’t able to provide any answer at all. Worst interview I’ve ever done.
    I’ve had anxiety in other interviews, including for my current job, where I froze up at one point but was able to answer other questions before and after that I was more confident in, but that one where I was too anxious to give any answers was just the worst. In my defense though, it’s pretty hard to answer questions while your brain is second guessing everything and telling you how bad it will be if you screw up… even though by not answering you actually screw up worse.

  68. aarti*

    I interviewed once, was trying to get into the stem field. It was an entry level position. She started asking me some incredibly basic questions about the field and I – just blanked. She was very kind about it but I literally couldn’t answer the most basic questions.

    I am still not in the stem field. (But i do love my job!)

  69. PolarBear*

    I am a data analyst, and use Excel heavily (among other tools). One of my first interviews after graduation was for a “dream job”. I thought I aced the interview, until they gave me an Excel skills test. It wasn’t a formal test, they gave me a laptop and asked me to do some basic functions. Except the laptop had a new version of Microsoft Office (Lotus, maybe?) where all the ribbons were replaced with icons. I couldn’t find anything, got really flustered and promptly forgot every excel formula I knew. I didn’t get the job, and spent the next few weeks watching tons of Excel tutorials and learning every short cut I could. I’ve never encountered that ribbonless Excel again!

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      Oh god, i remember that one, where it was all big circular buttons with icons on that you had to click around to find out what they were even supposed to represent. I want to say it was the version that went with Windows Millennium Edition? Maybe Windows 8? One of the short lived versions of Windows.

    2. RPL*

      OMG, reading this just unlocked a long-buried memory. I also had to do an Excel skills test that used a different version of Excel. I might’ve been fine (it wasn’t a huge difference, just enough to disorient me) except that the test software limited the number of times I could click my mouse. I needed more clicks to figure out where various functions were located than I was allowed, so I ended up failing the simplest tasks that I absolutely could’ve done with just one more click. It was so frustrating!

      1. Katherine*

        That would frustrate me so much! Put a time limit on if you must, but clicking around is how most people find things in ANY slightly unfamiliar software.

  70. Kelly L.*

    Made a crack about wanting a margarita.

    I actually got that job, which is when I stopped trying to guess whether I’d get the job based on how I felt about the interview.

    1. Kes*

      Yeah honestly I’ve found this very hard to predict based on how I feel it went. The interview for my last job I walked out of and was like ‘well, I guess that’s practice at least’… then they called back and asked for a second interview and I ended up working there for several years.

  71. Gondorff*

    Was interviewing for a job with my state’s legislature. The interview mostly went fine until they asked me if I knew who my state representative was. I had just finished undergrad out of state, and so completely blanked and blurted the first name I could think of. That person wasn’t my state rep, and had also died about 5 years prior.

    The absolute kicker was that one of the people on the interview panel was, you guessed it, my current state representative.

    Needless to say, I did not get the job.

    1. saskia*

      I would be sooooo confused. “Oh god, I thought the guy on the panel was my state rep. I guess he isn’t? Then who is it? I can’t say I thought it was him, everyone would laugh at me. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..”

    2. Rocky*

      Ohh I feel this so hard. Like the panel will say “this skill is especially important, given who our Minister is…” And I will chuckle knowingly, while thinking “OMG who the hell is it?!?!”

  72. Baunilha*

    Many years ago, a friend who had just graduated had an interview with a major company. Things were going well until the interviewer asked him how long would it take for him to go from his current company to the new one. (Meaning, a possible start date) My friend misunderstood the question and answered with “Oh, about 10 minutes, is really close”. (Meaning commute time from one company to another) The interviewer didn’t clarify and my friend only realized later. He didn’t get the job, but we laughed about it for months.

    1. Alex*

      In his defense that’s a really weird way to word that, and reading this, my first thought was also….”why do they care how close his old job is?”

    2. Kes*

      Yeah that’s a bit of a weird way for them to phrase it, but it’s a pretty funny story. “Oh, about 10 minutes” – I love that.

    3. i like hound dogs*

      Haha, that’s like when the contestant on Miss Congeniality gets asked to describe her perfect date, and she names a date in April “because you only need a light jacket.”

  73. Lurking Tom*

    I was interviewing for a senior software developer position at a now well-known startup in the late 2000s. By that point, I’d been in my career for 12 years and was very much qualified on paper. I got to the interview, the personality fit with the team seemed good, and we moved to the technical interview. They gave me a list of animal names on a whiteboard and asked me to write the most efficient sort algorithm in pseudo-code to sort them by the last letter of their names in reverse alphabetical order. Did the backwardness throw me off? Who can say, but my brain in that moment said “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” and I just stared at the board for a good 2 or 3 minutes. Then I started saying things. I don’t really remember what, but it was surely me trying to talk my way into a solution. That went on for another . . . 5, 6 minutes? I didn’t actually write anything during this time, mind you. Finally, the interviewer pulled the plug on that question and we moved back to talking about my previous experience, which honestly must have seemed like a complete lie given my inability to solve a problem that someone fresh out of (or still in) a comp-sci program would have knocked out in about 2 minutes.

    The punch line: I got a callback for a second interview. I was floored! I was a collapsed disaster souffle during that interview! But I didn’t take the second interview because driving to the interview showed me how awful the commute would have been and I had mostly already decided that unless I was blown away by the offer that I was sure to secure (LOLOLOLOL) that I would not take a job there. Frankly, they probably dodged a bullet by not hiring me!

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I hate that kind of test. Yes, a fresh CS major can answer it. In real life nobody writes their own search algorithm, because reinventing the wheel is a poor use of time and not good coding practice, and if pressed in an interview I’d say that.

  74. CheeryO*

    I was absolutely terrible at interviewing right out of grad school. The worst was a phone screen for a position in one of two main sub-areas in my field. The interviewer started off with a softball question about which of the two areas I was more interested in and why, and my brain just shut off and I blurted out the wrong one. When he asked me to elaborate, I provided literally no information, saying something like, “Well, I like llama grooming because of the llama grooming aspect of it.” He was like “Okaaaay, I guess I can pass along your resume to our llama grooming team.” To this day I have no idea how I managed to bomb a phone screen that badly.

  75. A (Former) Library Person*

    I once had an interview at one of those moderately expensive, very trendy mall clothing stores, and they asked me to put together a hypothetical outfit from clothes in the store. Totally reasonable and practical, and I went right to it. By the time I came back, the manager was completely disinterested and didn’t even look at what I’d put together.

    In retrospect I have realized this is probably more on the interviewer than on me, but it felt awful at the time and I still wonder sometimes what I did to turn that manager from friendly to dismissive so quickly.

    1. My Cabbages!*

      I once interviewed at a trendy store. The interviewer asked me what bands I listened to.

      I didn’t know what to say so I blurted out “oh, I don’t really listen to music.”

      The store’s tagline was “All About The Music”.

      Reader, I did not get that job.

  76. comfy lady*

    I had a phone interview to be an assistant for a team in a mutual fund. The first thing the guy asks me is, “what’s the market doing today?” Of course I had no clue. Steve Jobs had just died so all I had to say was “well, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Apple.” Luckily when he continued on (why??) and described the job to me, I thought “wow you could not pay me to do that.”

    I also farted in an interview and we just ignored it. I did get that job.

    1. AnotherLadyGrey*

      omg. I was already in hysterics from the first half and when I read about the fast my soul left my body. amazing.

  77. Lynnerd*

    1) I listened to the Imagine Dragons/DJ Khalid Young Dumb Broke mashup before an interview to psych myself up (complete with air punching). When the interviewer asked what drew me to their company, I, in my late twenties and in the grip of a brain fart, responded that I was a “young dumb broke high school kid.” He wrapped up the interview right after that and I never heard back. The song forever haunts me.

    2) In one interview I talked about my “type A-ness.” Say it out loud. Was I smooth about it? Nope. I stopped mid-sentence and said, “Wow, I shouldn’t say that, SHOULD I???” I proceeded to say it AGAIN a few minutes later.

  78. I Hate Doing That*

    I had been fired from a startup I basically helped build for peanuts while the owners raked in money. They hired a consultant who was their best friend’s sibling or something and that person wanted me out badly. The whole thing was too personal and enmeshed in my life and it just went totally wrong. It was more like a break up than a firing. It was a three person company so no HR, no nothing. Looking for a new job was hard because all I had was this company to show for the last decade.

    I landed an interview with a Fortune 500 during Covid lockdown. Despite my mental health being at an all time low and my professional filter being nonexistent, I made it through all four rounds of interview. At the lat interview they mentioned one task that I hated doing (sending out the email blasts to subscribers. It gives me anxiety, especially after an intern screwed up really bad at the old company and sent out an old email with our old prices on it that caused a poop tornado). During the interview they mentioned something about using my background in email marketing to send email campaigns and I just blurted out “I truly hate doing that and if you make me I’ll jump out a window.”

    They didn’t call me back. Or email me. And they unfollowed me on LinkedIn.

    1. ScienceGuy*

      I’m sorry, but your last sentence really made me laugh. It’s like, “In case you didn’t get the hint, we shall add petty insult to injury!”

  79. glowormjukebox*

    Not my story but I had the misfortune of witnessing it first-hand. We had a job candidate giving a job talk at our all-lecturer writing center at a R1. This was during the pandemic so it was over Zoom. This person had 50 minutes to give us a sense of how they would be a good fit as a director for our peer writing center. All 18+ faculty and 6-ish support staff, along with our director and associated director, made space in our schedules to attend this job talk. The person started it off with a “centering moment”/mindfulness thing– which was to project a flickering candle, and we were all to “center” ourselves before the talk.

    IT LASTED FOR TEN MINUTES. The guy spent 20% of his job talk making all of us silently stare at a video of a flickering candle.

    I spent most of that 10 minutes pinning all of my colleagues horrified faces and trying not to laugh.

    1. MCL*

      I’m also at an R1 (though this would be bad anywhere!) and just wrapped up service on a hiring committee. This is AMAZING and totally horrifying. I work with a pretty chill faculty but I feel like our dept chair would have cut that off short after like, a minute.

    2. AFac*

      When I was a grad student, a candidate came in to give a faculty job talk about their research. They posted a single slide with a bunch of graphs, sat down, put their feet up on the table, and said “Any questions?”.

      Our academic field was casual but not that casual. Us grad students looked at each other in horror and Fremdschämen. We (fortunately?) couldn’t see the faces of the faculty because we were in the traditional grad student seating in the back of the room.

      The job candidate did not get the job.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I went to a job talk as a grad student and watched the candidate recite their clearly scripted talk from memory. It became obvious there was a script because the candidate got briefly interrupted at one point, then had to start back a few sentences to get back on track. They did not get the job.

        1. amoeba*

          Hah. It’s a good word. I also realised we’re currently in the process of replacing it by “cringe” (the English word) – in German. Maybe we can just swap?

  80. Sean*

    Ooooh, man, my worst was when I was flown to another state to interview for a multi-day job when I was a senior in college. I flew in on a Sunday and was at the company for a while in the afternoon, with instructions to return the next morning at 9 a.m. My hotel apparently had the only alarm clock known to man without a snooze button, and this was the days before cell phone alarms, so I set my alarm and then promptly went back to sleep after it went off. I only woke up when the company called me wondering where I was. I made up some B.S. story about being confused on what time I was supposed to show up (this somehow seemed better than just copping to what happened). It was a rough day to be sure, made worse by the general meanness of the managers there about what happened and their total lack of grace – my first lesson in interviewing the company as much as they were interviewing me.

    The next day, IT HAPPENED AGAIN. This time I woke up with exactly enough time to throw my crap together, get to the company and finish the interview, although without time to shower. Mercifully I flew out later that day. I did not get the job (nor did I want it by that point) but I did have a drink in every airport bar on the way home that night.

  81. Ghostess*

    An interviewer once asked how long I planned on staying in the role if I got the job, and I said “Forever. Does Office Depot sell coffins? I could order one because that is how long I will stay.”

    That was not a testament to how much I wanted the job or my loyalty to any role, but more to how much I DID NOT WANT to look for another job. I do not know if it counts as a bad interview because I ended up getting the job, but I do think in the future I will not mention WORKING TO MY GRAVE at an interview.

    1. Be Gneiss*

      “Does Office Depot sell coffins?” is the most amazing thing I have heard, and I choked on my popcorn.

  82. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” (or some variation of that). Answer: a ramble about how it’s useless really to plan that far ahead because things change, the company might not even exist any more, or technology changes and renders what we do obsolete so what I’m doing in 5 years might be something that doesn’t exist. And that that’s all OK, because it’s most important to keep a flexible and open minded approach rather than to be wedded to a plan.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t hate that answer tbh. I might leave out the bad omen about the company going under but otherwise yeah, valid.

    2. Polar Bear Hug*

      I got asked that at an interview for my first job in tech. I told the interviewer I’d still be in the department, hopefully as a manager or team lead.

      Five years after that, I had gone back to school, become a teacher, and was actually teaching the interviewer’s kid.

      I do wonder if he still asks that question, and if so, does he remember how totally wrong I was?

    3. sacrealgoecc*

      My answer to this question (and I got the job, surprisingly), was a deadpanned “I don’t know, Bob. This place doesn’t exactly have a career ladder for someone like me. I’ve been making it up as I go along.”

  83. You want stories, I got stories*

    I’ll share two stories, I don’t want to depress myself by listing more.

    Story 1.
    I needed out of my toxic work environment. I had not gone on an interview in 10 years and I hadn’t really started reading AAM yet. Recruiter got me an interview. Recruiter sent me a short guide to interviewing, including questions I could ask. During the interview, the three person panel revealed, “After our first interview with another candidate, we realized we have the job description wrong.” So the interviewers were going to be asking me questions about the position they wanted to hire for and not what I had applied for. So now I’m off what little game I have, since they were asking questions I was not qualified for.

    I remember being asked one question, and I wasn’t answering quickly enough for one of the interviewers, so he interrupted me to basically say, “Get to the point.” The question was basically, “what was an accomplishment you were proud of?” And I do remember, I had solved a problem at work that two other people who had looked at it had failed to fix. I basically said, “They had looked here but I …” When I was interrupted with, “I don’t care what other people were doing, I want to know what you did.”

    Finally, remember the questions the recruiter had sent me. I asked one of them. The recruiter got feedback about the interview, and they didn’t like that question, it made the feel uncomfortable, as it was such a negative tone to it. The recruiter left that feedback on a voicemail for me, which was good, as I would have chewed him out since that question was theirs in their pamphlet. I’ve seen that question pop up a few more times from recruiters on their handouts and I always mention, “You should drop that question.” The question was, “Why would you not hire me?” Or something to that effect.

    I never worked with that recruiting company again, so I’m thinking I got black balled by them.

    Story 2.
    Covid, working from home and Zoom calls. I was interviewing with someone over zoom when suddenly the door behind her moved about an inch. I thought the wind, but then it moved again, about an inch. It kept moving about an inch again and again. I don’t remember any part of that interview, except for the door moving. Finally it closed, and I was relieved. But then it opened again. Finally the recruiter excused herself for a minute to talk to, I assume a child, to get the door to stop being moved. But yes, all I remember about this interview is the door. I don’t recall any questions, how I answered them or anything.

  84. Lalila*

    I was right out of college and interviewing for management consulting positions. They tend to have many interviews and I was talking to a few companies, so I was doing quite a few of them, and probably not giving the process the attention it deserved. Anyway. One night I went out with friends, and the night got a bit out of control… Woke up the next morning still very drunk, went to my interview and did a TERRIBLE job. Surprise, surprise, I didn’t get the job. The interviewer said I wasn’t “structured” enough and that it was “hard to follow my train of thoughts”. Ahem.

  85. MondayMonday*

    My worst interview experiences were when the job was WAY over my head. Like I was not even remotely qualified and couldn’t answer any of the questions coherently. Looking back, I blame those companies for brining me in without a proper phone screen. Or maybe they were desperate?! I was fresh out of school and went on every interview offered.

  86. Off Plumb*

    Second-round Zoom interview for a long-term temp job paying life-changing amounts of money. They asked questions like what my last boss would say about me and how I’d handled conflict. And for some reason* my brain was like “now is a good time to be 100% candid and unfiltered about all my personality clashes and missteps.” My relationship with my last boss wasn’t even all that bad! I’m actually very professional and easy to work with! I have good interpersonal skills! But I sounded like an absolute mess, and they made it very clear that they didn’t approve. I knew right away that I had completely blown my chances and I had to use every self-care strategy in my repertoire to keep from ruminating over it all weekend.

    *Part of the reason is that the interview was the day after a severe weather event that stirred up memories of a previous, even more severe, very traumatic weather event. I thought I was fine but I was clearly not. Weird way for that to manifest, though.

  87. dePizan*

    I was interviewing for a position in Alaska. The interviewer asked if they did hire me, how quickly did I think I could relocate. I said I could probably do it in 3-4 weeks since I rent and it’s just me and I don’t have a big apartment. She stares at me for a minute and says, the average is 6 weeks because it takes so long to find an apartment in our small town during tourist season and ship things by boat, etc. I did not get the job. I maintain it was a dumb gotcha question when it was just the first round of interviews.

    And then you could probably do a full post on the bombed interviews due to location or technology. Like glitches with Zoom interviews, and when the one person’s side or the other drops completely for 10 minutes and keeps freezing and their audio kept cutting out. Or the interviewer who chose to have us meet in a very busy coffee house where the music was so loud that neither of us could hear each other.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      What?? If she already had a timeline in mind, why did she ask the question? Also, you were talking about YOUR timeline, of being READY to move in 3-4 weeks? What a WEIRD question and response!

    2. WS*

      How are you meant to know that??? I have interviewed healthcare positions for my small town and that’s something we warn the candidates about, not blindside them with!

  88. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    I was very early for an interview (I’m early for everything) so I decided to sit in my car and listen to NPR. It was the first time I’d heard David Sedaris, telling the story of his childhood guitar teacher. I was laughing to hard I couldn’t breathe, mascara running, snot running, absolutely hysterical. I certainly went into the interview in a good mood, but I looked like I’d just finished a major crying jag and was totally distracted. Reader, I did not get the job.

    1. Tanks for the love*

      You can always get a job as a Christmas elf

      (Reference to a famous story read by David Sedaris on NPR)

  89. ldub*

    I was interviewing for a job right out of college and they asked me how I deal with high stress situations. I said “Well, first, I cry.”

    Did not get the job. Which was great, because I ended up in one at a different institution, and am still there (with a pension) 21 years later!

  90. Ms VanSquigglebottoms*

    The first time I interviewed over Zoom, my interviewer was late and joined from a crowded cafe. I knew it would be structured, but I didn’t realize that he’d read the questions, wait for my response, and then move to the next question like a robot. I was sure I bombed it–I established absolutely no rapport with the interviewer. Imagine my surprise when I got the job! Fortunately, that guy is no longer on our board and we approach interviews a lot differently now.

  91. Amanda Wahlberg*

    I interviewed under the STAR format and was woefully unprepared for it. After the first question, I sat there in silence. The three interviewers returned the silence. After a full minute someone said, “I believe she’s on mute.” I piped up, “Nope!” and the silence resumed.

  92. Lena K.*

    Not a job interview, but an interview for a full scholarship to one of my top-choice colleges – so the stakes were high. I was one of four candidates left in the running. A few minutes into the interview, I choked on my water and collapsed into a coughing fit, which would be bad enough on its own, but I somehow burped loudly in the middle of it too. I’m pretty sure I cried once the interview was over and I was out of sight of the office.

  93. Constance Lloyd*

    During college, I was an English major applying to work at a Ben and Jerry’s. The application itself covered all the basics, but ended with a request for you to write or draw something that showed your personality. My time to shine! I’d worked in food service for 5 years at that point, primarily cooking and serving poolside food. To show my personality, I wrote a delightfully entertaining short story about the chilly summer day the pool was empty enough for me to finally achieve my years-long goal of using french fries to lure a bird into the building. Where we prepared food. For a job in food service.

    Reader, I was (shockingly) not offered an interview.

  94. bamcheeks*

    A job as an ambassador in Foreign City for the city next door to the city I grew up in.

    As is frequently the case with two cities next door to each other, one is bigger than the other and barely aware the other exists except for the occasional gag about the smaller city’s accent, intelligence, attractiveness, insistence on eating offal, tendency to choose animals for romantic partners, etc. And the smaller city burns with seething resentment of its near neighbour’s size, wealth, shopping opportunities, and general arrogance. I am from Bigger City.

    Next-Door City was twinned with Foreign City: I had spent a year living in Foreign City as a student, and was desperate to go back. They wanted a Young Person to go and live in Foreign City and be an ambassador and enthusiast for Next-Door City. And since I grew up in Better City, literally less than 10 miles from Next-Door City, I figured I could fake enough knowledge of Next-Door City to be able to go back to Foreign City.

    Anyway, it became obvious about a minute and a half into the interview when they asked me what I most associated with Next-Door City that the answer was zero. I remember the interview trying to jolly me along: “Surely you think of our football team? The shopping centre? Stately home? Major landmark? [Nationally famous brand] sausages?” Me: [shaking my head slowly as none of this strikes the slightest note of recognition]

    After the most humiliating 30 minutes of my life, I left and caught the train home, secure in the knowledge that I hadn’t got the job, and when I got back I walked straight over to my friend’s house, still wearing my smart white interview shirt. And it pissed it down with rain. And I got soaked to the skin. And it is over twenty years ago, but I still remember the look of absolutely panic on my friend’s housemate’s face as he opened the door to me and how desperately he was clearly thinking, “eyes on the face! eyes on the face! eyes on the — FACE! omg face.” — and I realised that my shirt was now completely see-through.

  95. FearNot*

    I was interviewing for an executive assistant job but the main door of the building was closed due to construction. To enter, I had to walk around the side of the heavily foliaged building where I got whapped in the head with a branch, but thought nothing of it. About a third of the way through the interview, multiple insects kept falling out of my hair onto the table. At first I thought it was from the room, and then I realized that there was a nest of …something… stuck in my hair. I reacted accordingly; It was not my best moment.

    1. Bookworm in Stitches*

      OMG! Since I’ve personally had a buggy freak out, seen others jumping, swatting, freaking out… I’m so sorry, but I’m laughing my head off!

  96. svenjolly*

    More than 20 years ago, I interviewed for a copy editor position after a friend who I had worked with recommended me to his new employer and they recruited me. The new publication was niche and more prestigious. I don’t know if it was because it just kind of landed in my lap, but I was completely capricious during the interview, waving away questions about whether the change in workload/responsibility/subject matter would be a challenge. No problem, I assured them, I work under the extreme conditions of a daily, major city newspaper, this is simple. I have no doubt I implied it would be so easy as to be boring.

    And then I took the editing test and my mind went as blank as a plain sheet of paper. I forgot how to spell Volkswagen. I forgot how to do simple fractions/percentages. I forgot the name of one of the wealthiest/biggest benefactors/major business owners in the city. After, I sat in my car and laughed so I wouldn’t cry over my hubris.

    Plot twist: I’ve been working at that publication for about two years now. No one who was at that interview 20 years before is there today, but any time we meet in the small conference room where I bombed that editing test, I flinch a little inside.

  97. Darth Brooks*

    This was back in 2012, and I was in the very early stages of pregnancy but didn’t know it at the time, so I partially blame hormones for this. I had done a ton of preparation for the interview and printed out a whole bunch of documents to review prior to going in. I drove to the interview site before realizing that I had forgotten the file on my desk so I felt a bit flustered and unprepared. But I had been interviewing a lot at the time, so I thought it would be fine.

    I went in and it started out ok. Then they asked me what I knew about their office and what they did. I started to answer, using some of the research I had done on them, and they stopped me after a few minutes, mid-sentence, to tell me I had mixed them up with another office and I was way off.

    It was like having an out-of-body experience where I looked down and saw myself completely freeze up with these two people just staring at me. Then I started bawling. I was so embarrassed. They were so nice about it, which somehow made me feel worse.

    I ended up getting another position later on at the same location (different office) and I would frequently run into that hiring manager. He would always greet me by name and be so friendly. I still cringe thinking about it.

  98. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Both for BigTechCo – the same one, actually. Shame stories aside, I interviewed here 3 times (once for an internship and twice for full-time) before I finally got an offer.

    When I was interviewing for the internship, I didn’t make it past the phone screen. Tech phone screens usually involve a fairly softball programming question. I usually solve them by working through a solution on a sample case without writing any code, then generalizing that solution. This interview lasted 40 minutes; I was so flummoxed by the question that around minute 25 the interviewer interrupted my attempt at solving a sample case and said “You know you have to write some code eventually, right?” I did not. I did not even finish the example. I am pretty sure my soul left my body for a few minutes there while my body had a panic attack. (In retrospect, since joining BigTechCo I’ve gone through interview training and interviewed intern or new grad candidates myself, and this guy actually just really sucked at interviewing. He owed me a hint way back when I was clearly stuck around minute 7 or 10.) (For other tech nerds who want a brainteaser, the problem was to implement a sort algorithm assuming you have an O(1) function which can reverse a subarray in place, eg. rev([a, b, c]) -> [c, b, a]. I know how I would solve it now, but that was a pretty shit question to ask a college junior with no hints.)

    One or two attempts later, they flew me across the country for an onsite interview. At the time I was interviewing in C++ because that was my strongest language, but in practice, I usually just wrote pseudocode in interviews (because the core competency is the algorithm development, not the syntactic sugar). At BigTechCo then the norm for onsite interviews was that candidates would code on a whiteboard with a dry erase marker. I mentioned to my interviewer right before lunch that I’d like to solve in pseudocode instead, and he said, “No, I’m going to take a picture of your whiteboard and take it back to my desk and compile it before I fill out your interview feedback.” Reader, this pissed me off so badly, and the interviewer could tell I was annoyed. Nobody writes compilable code without reference documentation – NOBODY. So I stubbornly used proper C++ style, no ‘using’, which means I was writing things like “std::iostream::stdout \<\< foo \<\< std::endl;" and "std::hash\”. In whiteboard. Eventually the guy goes “you don’t have to write all the namespaces” and I say “well, if I don’t, it won’t compile when you take it back to your desk, right?” and he kind of just spluttered at me. I was very mad. (But I’m pretty sure this is the one I eventually passed… soooo, I guess it worked out OK?)

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Bah, despite my attempts, the html parse attempt did mangle my fully-qualified C++ template types. The second one says something like “std::hash(uint8_t, std::string)” but with the carrot brackets instead of parentheses. Very verbose.

  99. WonderWoman*

    I attended a Facebook recruiting event that had excellent food and drink. Because I have no ability to hold my liquor whatsoever, I generally avoid drinking in professional settings. But the drinks were so good that I inhaled 2 of them in quick succession. Fast forward a few minutes later, and I’m talking to a recruiter about opportunities at Facebook. While trying to sell me on working there, he tactfully tried to address Facebook’s many political controversies. Without thinking, I assured him, “Don’t worry – I used to work in fashion. I am very comfortable with moral gray areas.”

    1. WonderWoman*

      Ya’all – I left fashion largely BECAUSE of its many moral failings. I don’t know why I said that!

  100. Clefairy*

    OP, I do think it’s worth giving yourself some grace- I bet the interview went way worse in your head than it actually did! I cry after almost every interview, certain that I did terribly, but most of the time I did fine and end up getting offered the job haha. If you don’t have a super specific thing that was terrible/embarassing, but rather just an overall sense that you didn’t do well, I bet you did better than you think!

  101. dorothy zbornak*

    I had lost my job at a start up and was interviewing at a VERY LARGE COMPANY. At the end of hour four when the woman who would have been my manager asked why I wanted to work there, I replied, “It would be nice to work for a company people have heard of.” I very much did not get that job and even the feedback from the recruiter indicated that was the answer that sunk me.

  102. Laura*

    When I was a teenager I had an interview at a clothing store. The manager asked me what I liked least about my current cashier job. I completely blanked and said “helping the customers.”
    Surprise surprise I did not get hired.

      1. i like hound dogs*

        Oh, wait, I misread. I thought you wrote what you LIKED about your current job, not what you liked LEAST. Haha!!

  103. 1-800-BrownCow*

    Often when I get nervous and have no idea what to say, I make jokes. Probably dumb jokes, I never know what I’m actually saying.

    About 20 years ago, I was looking to leave my first career job for anything better than where I was working. I got an interview with a very recognized named consumer product company in another state (4 hour drive away). I went through the initial round of interviews and was brought back a couple weeks later for a 2nd interview, this time meeting with the department head and my potential team. I was extremely nervous meeting with the department head and several times blanked on questions he asked, so I resorted to making jokes while my brain scrambled to come up with an answer. After about my 3rd joke, I noticed this guy never laughed, not so much as even a smirk. This resulted in me being more nervous and stumbling through the rest of the interview. Later that day, I interviewed with a couple of what would be my team members if I were to get hired. During my interview with the group, they inform me that the department head has no sense of humor and they refrain from making jokes around him because he doesn’t appreciate humor. Needless to say, I did not get that job. But probably for the best because a few years later, the company shut down that facility and moved the manufacturing oversees. And the place I later got a job with instead was a great company, the department head had a wonderful sense of humor and the industry I got into is a great one to work in and has helped me have a successful career path.

    So, LW, I look at my failures as “meant to be’s”, as something else better will likely come along and later on you can look back and laugh be be glad things didn’t go so well as you’re probably at a better job anyway.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      In the excruciating interview I talked about above, it got so bad that I thought it was a good idea to make a joke referencing a slightly obscure British comedy from the radio (2003ish). Nobody got it. But they did choose to ask me questions about it. Probably because they didn’t have any work questions to ask me.

  104. Krevin*

    First ever real interview with Sherwin-Williams for an internship in college. This was before I knew you needed to research the company. They asked me what I knew about the company and what I came up with for my answer was “You make paint…yea…you make paint.” Surprisingly, I did not get the internship.

  105. Forty Feet*

    After getting my degree in chemistry, I interviewed for an entry level bench chemist job at a CMO. The manager who interviewed me asked something like, “Since you’re new to the workforce and this will be your first post-graduate role, what’s something that you worry about with that transition?”

    My mind went blank (that’s not a question I prepared for!) and I answered with the first though that popped into my head, “I’m afraid I’m going to hate it.” The manager gave me a quizzical look so I started rambling, “Like, I just spent 4 years earning a degree in a subject that I love, and what if I start this job and it turns out that I hate it? What am I supposed to do then??”

    The manager chuckled and said “That is the most honest answer I have ever gotten for that question” and kept rolling with the interview. I wanted to melt into the chair and disappear forever. However, the manager hired me and worked there for 3 years before going to grad school so I guess it all worked out okay.

  106. Catwhisperer*

    One time an interviewer asked me what topic I could give a 30 minute presentation on with no preparation. I said young adult fantasy/sci-fi, which would work if the job had anything to do with books but the role was an operations position with a tech company.

    1. You want stories, I got stories*

      I will say, That is a good answer. When questions are too open ended, you are going to get weird answers.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that! I could probably do something work related, but my most comfortable zones would be from my museum volunteering (evolutionary classification, species survival program breeding, how you need your nose in order to properly taste flavors). I have more generalizable public friendly knowledge in those, because I talked about them to the general public, so I’m more comfortable with no preparation (already prepared to explain topics, etc).

    3. Zephy*

      I mean, in fairness, he said “with no preparation.” Who walks around with a tech ops related presentation ready to go off the dome??

  107. TOD*

    I teach deaf children. In our field, you can either do that by using sign language or hearing technology plus spoken language. I do the latter. I attended a school that only teaches spoken language, and is known in the field for doing that.

    When I was finishing grad school I had an interview for a preschool (spoken language) position at a school that used both. They asked me to prepare a demonstration lesson for SIXTH GRADE MATH. Ok, maybe there wasn’t a time that worked for the interview committee in preschool so I just sucked it up and prepared. I thought I had done the best I could. I planned a game and lined it up to the grade level standards and was ready to go (though, in retrospect, I am not sure how this could have possibly shown if I would be a good preschool teacher!)

    About five minutes into the lesson the interviewer tells me that one of the students in the class only used SIGN LANGUAGE! I was expected to conduct this entire lesson IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE! I was not applying for a sign language position, I was trained by a school that didn’t use sign language, I NEVER said I knew sign language!

    I hobbled my way through the interview and obviously didn’t get the job!

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Ugh. I would have said something, (maybe not even on purpose, just blurted it out), probably along the lines of “that’s not what it said in the job description!”. And then I’d just stand there until the heat death of the universe, or they asked me to leave.

  108. Laughable Walrus*

    I interviewed for a canvassing position with an environmental organizing/advocacy group my senior year of college as part of a big group interview. Canvassing is my nightmare, but I was very interested in the environment and organizing, so I thought I could fake it until I made it.

    During the one-on-one interview section, they asked about my involvement with a campus environmental group that I’d put on my resume. They asked how the group was recruiting more people to take action on environmental issues (you know, the central point of the job I was interviewing for), and I panicked and said, “Oh, we’re good with the people we already have and aren’t really trying to get more people involved.” It wasn’t even true!!

    The interview also involved a trial canvassing session, and I think I managed to talk to two people and get zero signatures, and nearly burst into stressed out tears when the interviewer asked me how it went.

    I did not get the job.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I showed up for an interview at a tech company and was asked where my laptop was. I looked blank. “For your presentation”, they explained. “What presentation?”, I asked. Turns out HR had sent me the generic interview invite, not the one for that team that explained a half-hour presentation on any past work was part of the process.

      I got the job anyway, and was one of a few people on the team to survive massive layoffs a couple years later. (Left on my own terms shortly after that.)

  109. straws*

    I’m really good at interviewing, to the point where I’ve been offered jobs that I’m really not qualified or capable of. I was interviewing for a sales position, which I’m absolutely terrible at. I got through the interview, feeling very convinced that they would never want to hear from me again, and slunk out to my car so they could ghost me or reject me or whatever they were going to do. Only to find that I had locked my keys inside my car, where I had also left my cell phone. So I had to go back in to call a locksmith to open my car up, then awkwardly wait in the lobby while the same people I just had the interview with went about their jobs in full view.

    I get home and they called to move me to the next step. I was not expecting it and panicked and told them that both my grandmothers passed away (Why Both?? I don’t know!) and hung up and ghosted them.

  110. BLA*

    I transitioned from being a public school teacher to working for a tech unicorn in the early 2010’s. I was young and in such a different world that I struggled to learn what was normal and what was bonkers. The unicorn had a recruiting team of one and no HR, so interviews weren’t standardized and interviewers weren’t trained on what to ask.

    While most people intuitively asked the candidates questions related to the job, a few people were fixated on astrological signs. I distinctly remember a post-interview debrief when one of those people dismissed a candidate with complete seriousness by saying “We already have enough Capricorns.” (They were, however, pleased when interviewing me because they could “never have enough Virgos.”)

    What a wild time to work in tech.

    1. Cass the Sorceress*

      As a Virgo, it’s true that you can never have enough of us! I’m not super into astrology, as in, I think it’s fun, but I don’t base any actual decisions on it. But one thing I notice is that occasionally when you see those lists of like “the signs as X” or something similar, if the creator of the list forgot one of the signs, it’s almost always Virgo they forget for some reason.

  111. K*

    I just kept dropping f-bombs, entirely by accident. Like I would apologize for the f-bomb I just dropped with another f-bomb.

    It was ENTIRELY inadvertent and so awkward that I cringe recalling it even a decade later.

  112. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

    Well, OP, have we got commiseration for you! Big hugs and I’m sorry for your recent experience.

    Here’s the story of one of my worst interview attempts. (Notice I said one of; I got stories for days!) This one is a two-parter with the same place! Over ten years ago, I was trying to get a part-time job that would cover some of my tuition in my graduate program. It was the summer leading up to the start of school, and my soon-to-end job in the city allowed us to take summer hours on Fridays, but I could never manage with my workload and meetings to actually leave earlier than 2 or so. The folks at the job I was trying to get were surprisingly casual about a Friday afternoon interview appointment, and said they would meet me when I could arrive. This was prior to smart phones and I was very good at maps in general, whether online or on paper, but I didn’t have a great idea of where this particular office was. I trusted a school to have good signage and figured I would do my best when I got there. Of course, I was running late and dealing with public transportation, but when I got on campus, just totally lost. Behold! The library! Someone there should be able to help! I go into the library and ask for directions to said office. Nobody staffing the reference desk this Friday at this gigantic flagship state school library during the period between summer and fall classes knows what office I could possibly mean. I ask for campus directories or help, please look up this staff member I am to interview with? One person kind of figures it out and gives me bus directions to the office, warning they’ve never been there. It’s just down the street. Of course, on a summer Friday, the campus bus is not running as frequently. So I walk, and then whoosh, campus bus. I stop and wait 15-20 minutes, fretting that I should have just continued walking. Whoosh. I am freaking out. A city bus comes, and I board that. I’ll surely be able to get off at the right building and walk from there! False, and don’t call myself Shirley! I end up back at the subway station and was beyond embarrassed. I don’t even understand how it was still the same afternoon, but it was rush hour by now. I was able to call the office on my phone and apologize profusely that something had come up and could I reschedule. I called a friend and bawled my eyes out about how horrible and stupid I was. Yet they gave me another chance, for the following Friday, but at a set time. I was not new to interviewing and had been very good in the past at determining location before the day of, but did I do that for round 2, given that I had a weekend in between?

    The next Friday, I have printouts, I have bus schedules, I have incredible tenacity. I don’t have a car, a smartphone, real certainty as to the office location, or the freedom to leave work early that day. I call ahead when I know I am running late, and they are grudging but yes we will wait. Of course there is a terrible thunderstorm on the way, and I am soaked from the sideways rain. The train didn’t get me there with any convenient bus connection, so I walked and walked, but this time, I didn’t miss the office building. I am beyond embarrassed at my tardiness and appearance, and there is no fixing it in the ladies room, plus there’s no 10 minutes prior to the interview to calm myself. No elevator even, I’m huffing up the stairs. The interviewer is waiting outside in the hallway. I do wish he had simply called and cancelled on me, because he was in. no. mood. He was not up for my icebreaker chatter. I spotted a few things in his office that clued me in we were originally from the same area! He would have severed it from the United States at that moment if he could. Every line about the job dripped with contempt as I tried not to drip on his office furniture. Every question was reluctant; he cut off every answer, even when I realized what he was doing and spoke in short fragments. I thanked him again for waiting for me, thought better of saying I was usually not like this because in all his experience, YEAH, I was this. He told me I was not getting the job. I appreciated his time and the opportunity to interview and wished them all the best with the fakest smile ever. And then I never had to see anybody from that office again in my entire life. WHEW.

    1. Cedrus Libani*

      I’ve had an interview like that. The office was on the other side of the city, in a place that was fairly obnoxious to get to on public transit, and I didn’t have a car. I printed the directions from MapQuest, hailed a cab that I couldn’t really afford, and off I went. I should have arrived with time to spare, but there was construction that messed up the route, and the cabbie got hopelessly lost. I’d neglected to print the email with my contact’s name and phone number, so I couldn’t call to let them know where I was, I could only watch helplessly as the meter ticked up and the minutes ticked by. I was around 15 minutes late. Apologized, and did the technical interview, which went well.

      Then the manager turned up. He spent the full hour asking pointed behavioral questions. Punctuality, organization, responsibility…you get the idea. I figured out pretty quickly where this was going, but I had nowhere better to be (young and unemployed) and at least it was interview practice. Also, I wasn’t going to give the guy the satisfaction of watching me sweat. He got a full hour of calm, neutral professionalism right back, mostly out of spite. At the end of the session, he led me to the next interviewer’s office, told him not to bother as I wouldn’t be getting the job, and asked him to escort me out instead.

      That was a long walk home, both literally and figuratively, but I was also somewhat relieved that I didn’t end up working for that manager.

    2. amoeba*

      Oh my god, that first attempt of getting there is… literally a recurring nightmare of mine! Not specifically for job interviews, sometimes for flights or whatever, but always just “trying and trying to get there while time runs out and the it’s much too late and you’re still running around”. It’s a little scary to realise that can actually happen in real life!

  113. Bird Lady*

    My company was downsizing, and before the official layoffs were announced, anyone on FMLA was terminated. So people with long-term chronic illnesses were fired along side of people with acute issues, like a broken leg that prevented an employee from driving temporarily. It was for “excessive absenteeism”. And yes, it was likely illegal, but for many of us, it was our first job out of college. We didn’t really know any better.

    I was one of those people, and could not survive without an income. The job paid barely enough to rent a small, one bedroom apartment. The loss of health insurance was crushing. I rallied and submitted resume after resume, and within about a week, was called into a temp agency for a long-term contract. I had just enough funds to get through three days. I NEEDED the job.

    So of course, they ask me why I had left my company, and I just slumped into my chair and started sobbing. The sobbing aggravated my chronic health condition, and yes, I passed right out in the interview. I had to sign paperwork rejecting an ambulance and medical care.

    I did not get the job.

    1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      Good lord. I know this happened a while ago, but I am SO SORRY. Here is a virtual blanket and some soup so you can continue to recover from that utterly crap situation.

  114. Miller Time*

    In the 90s I worked as an HR Generalist for an addiction treatment and recovery outpatient center. We were interviewing a peer-to-peer addiction specialist. They’d need some minor credentialing as they’d spend time with our clients in recovery in our sober rec center in the evenings.

    He interviewed so well until he asked at the end of the interview if his shift could end 30 minutes earlier than we had scheduled. I asked why, he said “because the beer store closes at 10, and that’s Miller Time for me.” We all just kind of nodded and moved on. When we saw him leave he had a huge 420 bumper sticker on his car.

  115. Jane*

    Years ago, straight out of college, I was interviewing for a position at [name of Popular Coffee Chain redacted]. The manager asked me to give an example of when I ran into a problem at work that I had trouble resolving/how I handled it. I proceeded to talk about how one time, at one of my high-school retail jobs, I totally fell for a customer scamming us by returning a shirt that was at least a decade old for cash. (If I recall correctly, the way this got “resolved” was my manager took me to the back of the store, asked me how on earth I could have thought this was the right decision, and got some vague teenagery I-dunno sounds in response.)

    Coffee-shop manager just stared at me for a moment and then said, “…well, I can tell you right now, if that had happened on MY watch, you would have been fired.”

    Needless to say, I did not get that barista gig.

    1. Tobias Funke*

      That’s kind of fucked up of the interviewer – they could have said “oh wow, sounds like you really would have benefitted from more training on recognizing scammers” or something. Like, they didn’t have to hire you. But it’s free and easy to be kind! Even when you’re the interviewer!

  116. Stephen!*

    I once applied for a job where it could reasonably be assumed that you would need phlebotomy experience. The ad did not explicitly say that, though, and I blithely waltzed into the job interview with zero idea they thought I should be able to draw blood. And me, being young, dumb, and desperate for a job, offered to draw blood from my interviewer to prove that I could (I could not). Mercifully, she didn’t take me up on that offer. That moment still haunts me, 10+ years later. What the $#%! was I thinking?!?

  117. Critical Failure*

    I’ve told this story on here before but it fits —

    When I was about 21, I applied for a position at a local community college in the Registrar’s office. I showed up to the interview about 20 minutes early, and immediately had this horrible gut feeling that this was a mistake and I should just turn around and leave. Not wanting to be rude, I stayed. The Registrar (who was the hiring manager and doing the interview), was 30 minutes late to our meeting. The first thing she said when we sat down was “I’m a no-nonsense person. I tell it like it is. If you feel like this job is not a good fit, don’t be afraid to tell me so neither of us will waste our time.” So I took that to mean – if I don’t think the job will work for me, I should inform her. I was wrong.

    The interview was mostly her talking about how awesome and powerful she was, and me answering a few yes/no questions, and I quickly realized this job was NOT for me. So I told her, very politely, that while I appreciated her time, I didn’t think this was a good fit for me. She then started to berate me for saying that, and for a host of other things (including my “presentation”, how I spoke, how I dressed, etc), and told me I should NEVER tell a prospective employer that I didn’t want a job – I should have “begged” for the job to show my enthusiasm, even if I didn’t want it. I was so confused. I kept trying to politely leave, even getting up out of my chair, but she yelled at me some more. After a while she finally said I could leave. So I left and went to my car and cried. Bullet dodged, though!

    1. Wolf*

      If she yells in your first meeting, imagine how bad it would have been after signing a contract. Yikes.

  118. Jim was The Office villain*

    I have two. The first, I had quit a job with no job lined up and had been looking for 3 months. In the DC area. Money was tighter than tight. I was interviewing for a waitress position at a restaurant in Foggy Bottom and couldn’t find a parking space, which made me 5 minutes late. The first thing the manager asked was why he should still interview me even though I was late. I’m your quintessential “gifted” elder millennial, so the tears came immediately. I managed to blink them back and complete the interview, but it was awful. The restaurant also closed a year later, long after I’d gotten a job that got me into the field I’m still in now.

    The second was just a stupid mistake produced by anxiety. I was interviewing for a job that would manage other positions and one of the interviewers presented me with a hypothetical scenario wherein someone I managed named Tess came to me with a problem they wanted to discuss. I know non-binary pronouns! I use they and them in place of gendered pronouns every day! But for some reason my brain froze and I was like “oh, well who else is it because you said they…oooh.” I didn’t get the job. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of that stupid mistake, but I still think about it.

  119. Dawn*

    This one happened recently – I was asked to interview for an internal position at my company. The morning of the interview, the interviewer asked for a copy of my resume and I discovered that I had not updated my resume in a couple of years – which is fine, but I absolutely wanted to make some changes and apparently just never got around to them.

    I ended up accidentally snipping a job I should have left on in my haste. I was able to play it off, but… the reality is that I was woefully unprepared, for some reason assuming that I wouldn’t need a resume to make an internal move after being with this company for a good while.

  120. CSRoadWarrior*

    In 2019, I was interviewing for an accounting position for a pet food company. The first part went well. It was just a traditional, conversational interview.

    The second part? It was a total disaster. The guy interviewing me kept asking me one of those “tell me about a time…” question. I couldn’t think of anything and started sweating from being nervous. Too add insult to injury, he kept saying “but you still didn’t answer my question”. Truth be told, I really couldn’t think of a time because I didn’t have that much experience.

    It only got worse from there. I was told to take an Excel test. It wasn’t a traditional test where you sit on a computer in a private room. I was told to arrange a spreadsheet of ACTUAL COMPANY DATA and sort it through. All this while the guy interviewing watched over my shoulder less than 3 feet away. And I had to do around 5 multiple spreadsheets. In other words, once I was done, I had to do another. I couldn’t do it. I just kept clicking aimlessly and not to be able to get started and my nerves and embarrassment got the better of me. I started sweating like a waterfall and shaking from total embarrassment. Eventually, at the end of each spreadsheet, the guy just told me to move on.

    Only it wasn’t done yet. I had to do the second portion of the test where a lady watched over my shoulder. I asked to go to the bathroom. Only I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. It is obvious, but I knew I totally failed the interview. So I ran down the stairs, went to my car, and then drove off, totally red and sweating with embarrassment.

    However, while I was driving home, they called me asking where I was. I didn’t answer. And never heard back from them afterwards.

    1. i like hound dogs*

      OMG, this reminds me of a time I was told to make something in some design program … maybe Photoshop? I had zero Photoshop skills and just sort of moved stuff around until it looked worse and then gave up. I did get hired for the internship (prob because it was unpaid) but they never asked me to do any design-related stuff, ha!!

      Trying to do Excel with someone breathing down your neck sounds like a nightmare! I probably would have fled as well.

  121. DogsInPJsAreMyFavorite*

    i had a case interview where I hadn’t slept the night before, just not prepared. the woman asked me about like a hypothetical operations management question, and I just sat there and was like, I have no idea (which, like, my understanding is the point of case interviews isn’t to give a real answer it’s to see if you can ask questions and logic through it).

    after like, a minute pause where I just sat there, she was like, “would you like to know more about xyz metric?” as a hint and I responded “I’ll be honest, I don’t even have a clue what to ask, can we just sit here and chit chat?” (it was the 2nd of 3 interviews so we still had to use the full 30 minutes).

    IT WAS AWFUL. but the interviewer was very nice!

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Oh man i did the same once. It was my 4th panel interview of the day. I had no questions left. So I asked them what the best taco joint in town was. On one hand, it showed I was seriously considering moving to their location. On the better hand, I should have just prepared more questions or re asked the question I had earlier….

  122. Lucidity*

    I interviewed at a money management firm right out of college. I don’t know why – it wasn’t my field or even something I was remotely interested in, but I needed something, anything, and a friend referred me.

    At one point I was asked to solve a math problem and I completed blanked. I don’t enjoy math, hadn’t used it since high school, and didn’t even know how to begin solving this one. There were these three people in suits staring expectantly at me and all I could say was “um… I don’t know.” They offered me the use of a calculator and I declined.

    They wrapped up the interview very soon after that. Still so embarrassed.

  123. CorporateGoth*

    As an interviewee:
    – Showed up in a skirt suit and combat boots. In my defense, I had to wade through two feet of snow, I brought shoes to change into, and arrived early…the interviewer was also early and wildly nonchalant. This was 25 years ago when standards were more formal and also for a government position.
    – Was surprised to be asked what my vision for the position was. Completely and utterly shocked. I hadn’t even thought about it. I have no explanation, but never did that again.

    As an interviewer:
    – Asked where the woman saw herself in five years and she promptly answered, “starting a family!” She tried to recover with the follow up of “or law school.” Our organization did absolutely nothing with legal matters. I think about her sometimes.
    – We hired for initiative in one type of position, and after hearing about that requirement and why we felt it was important, one man earnestly told us he wouldn’t ever do things without explicit instruction because he didn’t want to get in trouble for doing things without permission. I still wonder if he realizes that he self-selected out of that job, but he did well enough to be later considered for a less independent position by a colleague.

    1. Things this comment reminded me of*

      – A woman I work with describe a male attorney we work with as trusty-worthy because he talks like a “daddy.” I haven’t decided what value to give this but I remember it often.

      – A man I work with insists on using the strictest definition of EVERYTHING never allowing for nuance as assuming the worst intentions from people. Meetings are very long.

    2. Wolf*

      I did the “suit and Doc Martens” look because they were the only non-sneaker shoes I had and I didn’t think anyone would mention it. I got hired, and one member of the interview panel later told me she liked my shoes, but the suit was terrible. She was right, the suit was a completely wrong size.

  124. Observation-Bombing Teacher*

    When I was a new teacher, I applied to work at a charter school that was opening in the city where I was already teaching. Looking back, I think it probably had a lot in common with most start-ups, but this was ages ago before everyone was familiar with the stereotype. I think they were making up the interview process as they went along, as it all felt a little ad hoc. They wanted to come observe me teaching where I was working at the time, followed by an interview at a later time. I was teaching the Pre-K class, so I scheduled the observation during our Circle Time (whole class lesson). After Circle Time was supposed to be my planning period, when the librarian would come to do activities with my class, so I would have a little time to chat with the rep from the charter school after the observation.

    The observation started off okay and pretty typical for my class at the time. We went through our whole Circle Time and I started getting the students ready for the librarian. Only the librarian didn’t show up, so I came up with something on the fly to entertain the kids for a few minutes. After more than five minutes, I was starting to lose the class’s attention so I put on some music for them to dance. Still no librarian and the kids were getting more and more silly with their dancing. Finally one of the kids got really exuberant and crashed himself into another kid. His nose took the brunt of the force and started bleeding profusely.

    Chaos broke out, I had to get louder and more forceful than usual to restore order, the librarian still had not shown up, and I had to find a way to get the bleeding child to the nurse’s office without leaving my class in the care of a stranger. I was so frazzled, the rest is a bit blurry but the child got care and the mess cleaned up. The librarian finally showed up for her activities, but the rep didn’t stay to chat at all. I was supposed to meet with the same rep to have the more formal interview, but he basically ghosted me. I’ll never know if it was a reflection of the charter school’s disorganization or my total flop of an observation. Maybe a little of both.

  125. Just a Manager*

    About 20 years ago, I had an interview with a small tech company. It was a group interview and the owner was one of the interview team. During one of my first answers, I called it a start-up and the owner immediately corrected me. He glared at me for the rest of the interview. Needless to say, I was not hired.

  126. Former Retail Lifer*

    Not me, but back in the 90s, a friend interviewed for a part-time job while he was in college. The interviewer asked him what he could improve on. My friend said, “I wish I knew how to fix cars.”

    This was an interview at a video rental store.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I actually kind of like that answer though. Being able to fix cars means you have some mechanical aptitude, which comes in handy in a lot of different positions.

      I have excellent Excel skills, and I attribute some of that to the fact that I am pretty comfortable manipulating items in real life. (I also know how to do a lot of basic car repairs.) Numbers and formulas are the nuts and bolts of Excel.

  127. Clementine*

    A story from the other side of the interview table. I was once involved in a day of interviews where we saw nine people for one role, and each candidate was worse than the previous one. This was for a role where people would have to drive to schools to talk to kids about higher education, how to chose their subjects and apply for funding etc. Candidate 1 tried to get us chanting motivational religious messages (we did not comply). This is in the UK where any mention of religion is extremely strange. One candidate spent the whole time with their eyes focussed on a fixed spot on the ceiling. After I established that there was nothing remarkable going on there, I slowly became convinced that they must be visually impaired and unable to make eye contact, and wondered about the logistics of them getting out to schools. They were not visually impaired. One candidate passed out copies of his presentation and mine had AN ACTUAL HUMAN SCAB stuck to it.

    Our first choice of candidate (who we already knew from collaborative work) phoned me after the interview to apologise for what a train wreck it was and was mystified when I told her that it was, by some distance, the best we’d seen all day. She couldn’t comprehend how bad the others were. I still struggle to believe it. It was such a weird day.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I did in fact do that job twenty years ago so I’m reeeeally hoping I wasn’t one of your candidates.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Oh, if there’s a “worst interview where you’re on the hiring side” I’ve got stories.

  128. H.Regalis*

    This is a friend’s story: She was in high school and had an interview for a part-time job. The interviewers asked her what her plans were for the next five years and she said that she wanted to move out of her mom’s house because if you live with your parents after becoming an adult, then you’re a total loser. That got a laugh from one of the interviewers. She got hired—which is how I met her—and then later found out that one of the two interviewers did in fact still live with his parents and does to this day.

  129. Lulu*

    Many years ago when I was applying to college, I did a midwest-small-liberal-arts-colleges-circuit and had several interviews. I also had a cold, and my ears didn’t pop after being in the plane. So, uncomfortable and heavily medicated, when the admissions officer asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to live in a tree and watch people walk by below me. I did not get in to Carleton College.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I had a college interview in which I cheerfully discussed my full schedule of honors classes, theater tech club (every day after school), chorus, and classical piano. Then the interviewer asked, “What do you do in your free time?”

      I went completely blank. If I’d been a little more self-possessed, I would have pointed out that I spent my free time on all the hobbies I’d been talking about. Instead, I said, “Um… watch TV with my friends?”

    2. Former Red and Khaki*

      Carleton in MN? I’m surprised they didn’t like that answer, we’re a pretty nature/wildlife centered state!

  130. i like hound dogs*

    Okay so I don’t really think I did anything that wrong at this interview but it was amusing nonetheless, and I didn’t get the job:

    I drove two hours to interview at a big state school. It was POURING rain. Like, the sort of rain that you can hardly see through. I did not have an umbrella and had to park sort of far away because it was also move-in day for students, which I did not know. Luckily, the rain slowed and I was only semi-wet when I checked in at the address I’d been given. As the admin got ready to walk me to the building where I’d be interviewing, the rain started again. She insisted I huddle under her umbrella with her, and when we got to a very large puddle (the whole street was basically a puddle, so we couldn’t go around) she offered to … pick me up and put me on the other side of the puddle. I declined and walked through it in my heels (not sure they recovered, I don’t remember). I am a small person but she wasn’t that much bigger than me and I just have to laugh thinking of the possibility of her struggling to physically carry me over a puddle while holding an umbrella in a downpour.

    I was pretty soaked when I got to the building and the interviewers suggested I wipe myself down with paper towels in the restroom, which I did. I honestly don’t even remember how the interview went but I didn’t get the job. Maybe they preferred their employees to be dry, lol.

  131. the menopause banshee*

    This happened to someone else, while I was interviewing them.

    Deep in the pandemic, my 7 year old had been “remote schooled” for a long time and was incredibly bored all day every day, and had realized that hassling me while I was trying to work was a guaranteed way to make her day more interesting.

    Because said child was in the habit of interrupting me frequently, I had put a hook-and-eye latch on the door of the room I worked from, so I could prevent her from bursting in at in-opportune moments. But she’s resourceful, and on the particular day that I was interviewing some poor person, she rattled the door in the frame, slamming it loudly, and then started yelling through the one-inch crack in the door that the hook-and-eye allowed, shouting “I WON’T STOP UNTIL YOU PAY ATTENTION TO ME”.

    Zoom is pretty good at filtering out background sounds but that definitely came through. I was mortified and felt awful on behalf of this poor person, who didn’t need the disruption of an interviewer stopping the conversation to yell at their child. What made matters worse is that the candidate was pretty weak, but I was second-guessing myself on that assessment because I didn’t know if I’d been able to evaluate them fairly. Fortunately my company does interviews in a team format, with everyone having 1:1 time with the candidate and then a group presentation, so I was only one person out of a team of 3 or 4 people who spoke to the candidate, and everyone was unanimous that we shouldn’t move their candidacy forward.

    Remember how a lot of medical services were delayed/backlogged/etc because of the pandemic? Yeah. Once that eased up, I was able to get a neuropsych evaluation for my child who turned out to have ADHD and some other neurospices, and we’re in a better place now.

    1. You want stories, I got stories*

      OMG, this sounds like the same interview to my own story. I didn’t have multiple interviews though, and no actual child yelled.

  132. kiki*

    I was interviewing for a role as a software engineer. I was asked to do a coding exercise before an interview where they’d talk over my solution. I had a lot going on in my then-current role and in my personal life and had stayed up until 4am the night before getting things done, so I was not going into this interview in the best headspace. They asked me a question about my approach and I basically said, “I don’t know, honestly I was just trying to get it done so I could go to bed.”

    I actually got the role which ended up being a bit of a red flag about the work culture at that company.

  133. DivergentStitches*

    Not super egregious but I recall an interview for an entry-level financial account manager type role and I remember them asking who was someone I looked up to, and I said my husband because he’s so level-headed, sometimes I ask him if I should be offended by something or not. IDK why I thought it’d be a good idea to tell them that I can’t decide for myself if I’m offended by something LOL!

    Then there was the internal role I applied for and the recruiter accidentally sent over the hiring manager interview guide to me via email, and I spellchecked it and sent it back! (i.e. “it’s ‘rapport’ not ‘rappor'”)

  134. UnicornUnicorn*

    In college, I interviewed for an internship with the Associated Press. The guy was a jerk straight off the bat, but I tried to give him good answers. At one point he said, “You’re working at a newspaper but you’re studying magazine journalism. What exactly do you want to even do?” And I said, “Well, I think it’s good to be versed in different aspects of journalism” and he scoffed at me. At the end of the interview, he handed me an AP-branded lanyard and tin of mints (I guess they were giving those out to everyone), and I deadpanned “Wow, it’s just like Christmas.”

    Did not get the internship. Also didn’t last long in journalism, lol.

  135. Stella70*

    I scored an interview for a Director position at an animal hospital; my experience and skillset fit their criteria so well, it was as if they tailored the job for me!
    One of their requirements was that I prepare marketing information on expanding their client base *or* I pitch ideas on reducing overhead costs, given assumptions I would make regarding a practice their size.
    Embracing the obnoxious side of my personality, I decided to wow them with ideas on both subjects. I worked days on my proposals, including polishing support docs which both my husband and dog agreed would seal the deal.
    Then…I got a haircut, manicure, new pantsuit/shoes/attaché. I am mortified to admit I even bought new underwear, should tragedy strike and they have to conduct my interview in an ambulance. I mulled over getting a colonoscopy, but I didn’t want to over-prepare.
    Interview day arrives! I pull into the parking lot exactly nine minutes early, stride through the door, and glide my way to the front desk.
    “Good morning,” I practically sing. “I’m here for my ten o’clock interview!” [Broad smile, friendly, but not overly so. Needn’t look too eager!]
    The attendant smiled back and said she would notify the doctors.
    Then she said, “Can I get your name?”
    I replied, “Stella….”
    At this very moment, my fatigued brain decided some downtime was well-earned and quite literally, powered off.
    The attendant smiled again and said, “Stella…What?”
    My head was so unoccupied by thought, all I processed was the sound of my heartbeat and the sweat droplets starting to burst from my pores.
    “Excuse me, Stella. What is your last name, please?”
    As God is my witness, I hadn’t the slightest clue in that moment what my last name was. Not only that, I could not think of a single last name of anyone I had ever met or heard about. I couldn’t think of a fruit or a vegetable or plant or a mineral. It was just me and my alarming warp-drive heartbeat, which was making me feel like the paramedics would get a chance to appreciate my new underwear after all.
    Like the professional I am, I recovered quickly and said, “No last name. Just Stella. LIKE CHER!” [Weak smile. Needn’t look too pitiful!]
    Attendant: Blank look.
    Me: “Madonna?”
    Attendant: Concerned look.
    She excused herself and stepped into the back. I was soon escorted to a conference room with four veterinarians, all clearly eager to spend time with an applicant not able to recall their own last name.
    The interview actually went downhill from there, and I was not chosen for the job.
    However, I am proud to assure you that since then, I’ve been able to recite my entire name – when asked – with a success rate of 100%. Why I am not running Apple or Google by now mystifies me.

    1. Que*

      I am sitting here at work, holding myself perfectly still and silent while I laugh so hard that I think I might cry. Thank you for sharing this clever, well-written, and extremely funny anecdote.

    2. beep beep*

      I am on the train home from work and the lady across from me is giving me the strangest look as I try not to cry from laughter. This one really got me, incredible story incredibly written.

    3. Dr Sarah*

      I made the mistake of reading this in the admin room at work and had a bit of trouble explaining why I was suddenly convulsed with laughter…

    4. once anon a time*

      OMG, are you the Stella70 of holiday party fame?

      This is whole anecdote hysterically funny to me, and I can’t even choose a favorite line, but “LIKE CHER” absolutely sent me. Thank you for sharing this marvel :)

      1. Stella70*

        Yes, that’s me! I’m not sure if I should be flattered you remembered, or mortified!
        I also wrote the story about how I yelled “…..I haven’t even pulled my pants down yet!….” to a co-worker.
        Stories, I got a million of ’em. :)

  136. PlainJane*

    I don’t think I’ve had any absolute disasters, but in my last interview for an internal position, I was talking to three people I’ve known for years and I realized that there was pretty much nothing they didn’t already know about how I’d answer questions about my priorities, but they were just sitting there, staring into their Zoom cameras, waiting for me to say something brilliant and I just started… rambling… about transparency and opportunities for growth for staff and… just word salad, and they just kept staring into the cameras, so I kept rambling some more because it’s unnerving, and…

    Yeah, I’m still at my original position. ;p

  137. anonforthis*

    Well there was the time that I went to a job fair that had on-site screening/interviews. I started to feel a little faint during the first one and decided I would get a soda and candy bar when I was done. The next thing I knew, I was looking up from the floor. [Yes, I fainted.] I was so mortified and immediately jumped up. And promptly fainted again. When I came to, the guy told me to stay on the floor. He then called for the on-site medical staff. They rolled me through and out the entire conference center in a wheelchair. Needless to say, I never heard back from that company and had no further interviews. Note I was fine but had skipped lunch in an attempt to make to the job fair (from out of town) before the end of the day.

  138. RabbitRabbit*

    Completely forgot my usual response to the “greatest weakness” question. I blanked and stuttered, and finally came around to something halfheartedly. Admittedly I was off my game because the pre-prepared question list had also included literally 5 different variants on questions about what I did in my free time. They were worded something like, “what do you do for fun,” “what do you do to relax,” and I cannot even remember the other wording. By the third version I was trying to figure out what the purpose was, if I was even understanding the nuances of the questions, and why the hell they needed to know this.

    The interviewer totally ghosted me as well. Probably for the best as their office was mainly an open office plan and was deathly silent when I was being led to the conference room for the interview.

  139. DramaQ*

    I don’t own business attire so I had to buy appropriate pants in a hurry for an interview. They were made of a slick black fabric. I sat down in the chair which apparently was also black slick fabric. Flying under the chair and having to pick yourself up off the floor does not make a great first impression

  140. Traveling Nerd*

    During the first dot-com crash, I had been working a bit in tech, but then was suddenly out of a job and was looking for anything, including retail mall positions.

    The interviewer at a clothing store asked me why I wanted to work there and I said “I need money.”
    She followed up with “but what appeals to you about working here?” and I panicked and said “I want to help people with their clothing solutions.”

    Needless to say… I didn’t get the job.

    However, a few months later, I got a job from this growing company called Google, so…. it worked out in the end!

  141. Middle Aged Lady*

    Not me, but a candidate for an academic position. A young person, fresh out of grad school, who was asked during his meeting with the search committee what would make him successful in the role. “I have tech skills. I’m not your average middle-aged humanities major,” they said, to a roomful of mifdle-aged humanities majors, all of whom had ‘tech skills.’ He made several other blunders during the day, including trashing his mentor, who was one of his references and whom several of us knew professionally, and describing a ‘solving a coworker conflict’ questioj by describing how he secretly documented her productivity and then attempted to get her fired. We did not hire him.

    1. christy7h*

      Secretly documented her productivity and then attempted to get her fired…. oh geez. Dodged a bullet with that hire

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        I was his escort throughout the day, as head of the search committee, and I struggled to get through it. I wanted to tell him to leave immediately after the ‘tech skills’ comment, which he made during the first morning meeting. He gave an excellent presentation and was polite at lunch, I will grant him that!

  142. Retrospective embarrassment*

    When I was in college it was always a struggle to find a job over the summers. The summer before my senior year my mom ran into a family we had known when I was younger, the son, who was a few years older than me had connections to a summer camp looking for staff for the summer and he told my mom to have me reach out to him.
    I sent him an email and I remember thinking his response was rude. He made a comment about my lack of punctuation in my initial email to him, and at the time I remember thinking he was a jerk and not reaching out further. Years later I resurrected that email thread (anyone else never delete emails??) and I felt both first-hand and second-hand embarrassment when I re-read my original email.

    There were no capitalized letters in the entire email. There were no paragraphs. No greetings, or “how are you”, and just an entitled statement about the job. And when I read his response, it was lightly pointing out in a bit of joking way that he had never seen a job inquiry email like that. I think he was trying to be nice, because if we hadn’t have known each other previously I’m sure he would have moved an email like that into the trash normally.

  143. Oh hello*

    I was interviewing for an internship when I was in grad school about 10 years ago. It was one of my first professional/structured interviews and I was so nervous. So so nervous. And so unprepared.

    About halfway through the interview the question was “tell me about a time you made a mistake” and I couldn’t think of anything. So finally 23-year-old me said (trying to make a joke) “do relationships count?”

    I obviously did not get the job. I still am so embarrassed by the interview and to this day wonder if the interviewers are ever talking and ask each other “remember that one girl…?”

  144. fidgeter*

    I once realized as I left the meeting with the dean portion of my day-long academic interview that I had been clicking the button on my pen constantly the entire time.

    1. fidgeter*

      Okay, also, at the lunch portion of another interview, the topic of arm knitting came up. I proclaimed that I was afraid to try it, because how do you put the project down to pee??

      I actually got that job.

  145. no sense of humor about tragedies*

    So this is a bit of a shame on you, shame on me sort of thing. Interviewing for a first job out of college. It was a group interview, and one person on the panel was obviously an “ugh, that guy” who I wouldn’t be reporting to, so whatever. My college had a very well known tragedy happen a few years before that. Ugh That Guy brought it up, and made a joke. I was pissed and responded back “It is a tragedy and people died. What a shi**y thing to say. Next question please.” I mean, yeah me for standing my ground, but I didn’t need the middle sentence, and I didn’t get the position.

    On the other side of it, I was interviewing people and the first question was a general “tell me about yourself” kind of question – wanting them to go over their background. A VERY high percentage of people told us their age, marital status, and how many kids they had, and how long until they qualified for retirement (gov’t job). We rephrased the question going forward.

    1. Jay_Ess*

      Honestly, good for you. I know it’s not “workplace appropriate” but if someone says something shi**y, sometimes you just have to call it what it is.

  146. Carly*

    Oh god, this is making me remember the time that I interviewed for a retail position when I was like 17. The interviewer asked me what I would do in the event of discovering a shoplifter. I proceeded to ramble about how everyone makes mistakes, how I would talk to the person that I saw stealing and ask them about why they were doing this, and the cherry on the disaster sundae was saying, “Not everyone who steals is bad, I have several friends that have shoplifted before!”

    I’m full-body cringing just typing that out.

    Quite clearly, I didn’t get the job.

  147. aubrey*

    The interview was for a retail job, but they asked me a bunch of math questions, like if this was $X and we had a 30% off sale what would the price be? I not only forgot how to calculate percentages, I panicked so much I couldn’t estimate it AT ALL, even completely inaccurately, and started silently crying, like the slow roll down your cheek kind.

    Instead of them ending this early when it became obvious I couldn’t do math, or me ending it early when it became a clear disaster, this went on for about 45 minutes and I did not answer even the non-math questions coherently. I still have nightmares where I’m trying to go somewhere else and end up in that interview room.

  148. Cyndi*

    This wasn’t so much me bombing as a group slapstick bit: many years ago my train was delayed on the way to an interview and I was fifteen minutes late, sure I’d ruined my chances already. When I got there I was greeted by my potential department’s assistant manager Bob, who told me apologetically that department manager Fred, who was supposed to be interviewing me, was running late. Fred finally showed up over half an hour late, I was interviewed by Bob and Fred, it went great and I got the job.

    A couple years into the job I finally sussed out what had happened: Fred was late because he was trying to track down HIS boss, my grand-manager-to-be Steve, who was supposed to be conducting my interview with him. Steve, meanwhile, had quietly bailed from work early–to go to a baseball game. Because it was Babe Ruth bobblehead day and he wanted to make sure he got one.

    And that’s how Babe Ruth posthumously saved my bacon in a job interview!

  149. HannahS*

    When I was a medical student I flew across the country to interview for a residency spot at a university that had simulated patient/family member encounters (with actors) as part of their interview process.

    As soon as I got off the plane, my parents called me to tell me that my grandmother had died. We are Jewish, so the funeral was to be the next day. It was literally impossible for me to fly home, get my passport, and fly 12 hours to Israel to be at the funeral. My parents told me to go through with the interview. The simulation scenario? A sobbing elderly lady whose husband just died. On the day of my grandmother’s funeral. When I was across the country from my then-fiance and across the world from the rest of my family. I cried through the whole thing, everyone was reasonably nice about it, and I did not match there.

  150. Lou's Girl*

    I had been working as an HR Generalist for 5 years. My husband’s job transferred us to another state. I applied for several positions, and got an interview for an “Employee Relations Specialist” at one of the area’s largest employers. Great, I thought, I’ve dabbled in ER (terminations, employee squabbles, harassment claims, etc.).

    Interviewer asks me to tell them about my ER experience to which I went on and on about terminations I had been involved with, unemployment claims, harassment claims, etc.
    She then says “well, if you had read the job description posted with the ad, you’d see that our ER deals with benefits, FMLA, etc.”. I did not get the job. I did get a very good lesson in reading the job description/ ad thoroughly before interviewing. Younger me made a lot of assumptions.

  151. Emmie*

    I say dumb thing’s frequently. Interviews are no exception.

    Up for promotion at a former job:
    What would you change about your current role?
    I love my job, I said. It was true. When pressed, I said I’d like to remotely from Bora Bora. I added that the time change would make it possible to enjoy the beaches in the afternoon.

    Interviewing for a new company:
    What do you like to read?
    I said “lady smut.”

    1. Oof and Ouch*

      I had to catch myself in something similar to the “lady smut” answer! I was in the small talk part of an interview and I was asked what I did for fun and I said I was a bit of a homebody so I mostly read and watched Netflix. The interviewer asked me what the last book I read was and I panicked because the truthful answer was a very steamy paranormal fiction book. I lied and just said that I was in the middle of rereading the Harry Potter series.

      1. Emmie*

        I am not alone!

        My issue is that I don’t like lying, but maybe this is a good time to fib. I like your Harry Potter response!

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, I mean, it’s not *actually* a lie if you cherry-pick a bit from books you’ve actually read, right?

          (I prefer “what book have you enjoyed recently” to “what was the last one you finished”! For instance, the last one I finished right now was nothing horrible, but a very forgettable, 3/5 star relationship/romance novel. I mean, I wouldn’t be embarrassed if my boss saw me with that on the train, but, like, there are many more interesting books I’d like to talk about!)

    2. PlainJane*

      Honestly, if I were interviewing you and you gave that answer, I’d find it funny and probably like you better for it.

  152. bad hair day*

    One of the interviews I had right after the worst of Covid was in an open location, and I had arranged my long hair into a complex braid.

    In the middle of the interview, where I was already nervous, a bird came and landed on my head. I tried to remove it, but everything I did only made it more entangled in my braid. When I finally won, my hair was completely ruined.

    The interviewer, who stood there watching my battle with the bird without intervening, jokingly asked me if I was good at handling unexpected situations. I guess I should have seized the opportunity, but I was so frustrated with the situation that I let out a curse word.

    Obviously, I didn’t get that job.

  153. K.*

    At the end of the interview, the interviewer said, “This organization has Christian roots, are you comfortable with that?” I said something like, “Religious background doesn’t factor into hiring, does it?” and they said no of course not. I said brightly, “Well good, ’cause I’m a Druid!”

    …Total silence. Did not get the job.

    1. Feotakahari*

      This makes me think of when I, politically very left-wing, interviewed at a firm that mainly helps wealthy clients to get even wealthier. They asked me if I was a leftist, because they’d hired some leftists before who turned out to hate the job. I swear it felt like the entire room was suddenly encased in ice. I stuttered out something about how I could be professional and provide my clients with the best possible support, but I’m sure they figured “Yup, another leftist.” Never heard back.

    2. Avery*

      Oh, this reminds me of my interview with a Christian non-profit, where I made it pretty clear that I am Jewish/was raised Jewish and didn’t actually know a ton about the intricacies of Christianity in the first place.
      Surprisingly, I got offered the job.

  154. i like hound dogs*

    Oh, one more. Another time I got an interview at a start-up through someone I knew. We chatted on the phone and then he invited me to the office the next day to “chat more.” I assumed this was a second interview.

    When I arrived in a blouse, pencil skirt and heels, he took one look at me and said, “you didn’t need to dress like THAT.” They were all in t-shirts and jeans, but I … thought I was there for an interview?

    I did get the job but quit literally three days later due to it being a hot mess where we were crammed in four to an office and no one told me what I was supposed to actually be doing. But I still feel embarrassed/ashamed when I think about how dumb they made me feel for wearing what I thought was a nice/standard interview outfit. Sometimes the photo pops up in my Google photos memories and I feel mad about it all over again.

    1. ecnaseener*

      What a jerk! Can’t blame you for being embarrassed, but please don’t be ashamed — that was a completely normal and correct thing to do. Like, if someone asked for advice on what to wear to a “chat” with the interviewer, I’d tell them to wear interview clothes and not read anything into the word choice.

  155. Sherm*

    An uncle once told me that a good reply to “What’s your biggest weakness?” is to say “I’m not a good speller.” And this was a little bit before the current era where computers correct our spelling every step of the way. (Worst. Interview. Advice. Ever?)

    So the interviewer indeed asked me that question, and I indeed gave that answer. She let out an “Oh!” as if to convey “Well, that’s big news.” I later told my mom what I said. She was flabbergasted, because spelling was not a weakness for me at all! Now both this interviewer and my mom felt I was a fool.

  156. Tempest*

    Early in my career, I interviewed for an accounting representative job. The interviewer asked if I had 10-key skills….. and I said no. Reader, my 10 key speed was 12,000kph+. Luckily I realized what I had said, and 10 minutes later said… “Wait.. I said I had no 10 key skills. I’m sorry, I’m just nervous! My 10 key speed is actually… ” It was mortifying. They must have found it funny because I still got the job.

  157. Human Embodiment of the 100 Emoji*

    I had an interview for a receptionist role at a company that had operations in Japan right out of college. I was interviewed because I said I could read, write, and speak Japanese. I had taken four years of Japanese in high school, but hadn’t spoken it in four years and was always much better at reading and writing than speaking. The interviewer conducted the second half of the interview in Japanese, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t answer a single one of her questions. Needless to say I did not get a call back…

  158. Nightengale*

    I assume this is what bombed the interview although I would probably do it again

    The year was 1998 and I was interviewing for Teach for America, where recent college grads are placed at schools in underresourced areas, largely cities and the South. I was asked how I would respond if I worked in a school that used corporal punishment.

    I responded, with likely evident horror, “Is that still legal?”

    They said, “in some states.”

    I answered, “well it shouldn’t be.”

    I am sure they wanted some assurance I would work well with the local staff and not be judgmental about cultural differences. I later became pretty involved in DEI including a lot of work about cultural humility. If asked that question again today I might demonstrate more tact, but I would still probably say the same thing.

    1. LucyGoosy*

      Honestly, good for you. Similarly, my husband was applying for a job about a year ago (small start up) and the owner said, “You’re not the kinda person who would, you know, freak out and call HR if you saw someone use [the R word] on the Slack Channel, are you?” My husband automatically responded, “Well, my mom is a special education teacher…” He did not get an offer, and honestly, had already decided he didn’t want the job, anyway.

  159. greydog*

    I was interviewing with a very intimidating man, and rather than starting our talk by asking me questions about my own work, he simply said: “Do you have any questions for me?”

    I stuttered a moment, and then asked, “What does the ideal candidate for this job look like to you?”

    He looked me dead in the eyes, and without smiling or even blinking, said evenly: “I want someone who’s going to make me lot. And lots. Of money.”

    I wasn’t interviewing on Wall Street or anything — this was a job in the arts! This guy’s intensity was terrifying. I giggled nervously but the interview only went downhill from there.

  160. ThursdaysGeek*

    I was unemployed and applying for anything that was even remotely applicable. Unemployment required 3 job contacts a week, and sometimes what I applied for was not something I was not at all qualified for.

    After one application, the company called me and asked if I’d be interested in a different position, one they thought I was more qualified for. I said sure.

    And then I got an interview for it. But I’d not seen a job posting, job description. When I was asked why I was interested in the position, I was still trying to figure out what position it even was. And I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know what I was interviewing for.

    Anyway, I’ve been at this job for nearly 11 years, so I guess I faked it ok.

  161. Oof and Ouch*

    I ended up getting both of these jobs, so I’ll say bombing is a relative term but I left both interviews thinking there was no way I’d ever hear from these people again.

    1.) The day started out with me getting dressed in my very uncomfortable interview outfit, going outside and realizing I had a flat tire. I called freaked out and called my mom who was luckily able to come switch cars with me and wait around for AAA. I was incredibly frazzled when I arrived for the interview and completely botched the hiring managers name. Then we started talking at which point I got very confused and we realized that I had been sent the wrong job description. The document I had been sent had a completely different job title at the top, and the duties were entirely different. I didn’t actually want the job that I was actually there to interview for, but I needed a job and I was qualified so I ran with it.

    2.) I am pretty tall for a woman, and I’m also on the curvier side. This makes it damn near impossible for me to find things like business suits without spending a ton of money and ordering something custom. So I tend to wear dresses to interviews with or without a blazer depending on the weather. I’m also in manufacturing. I went on a job interview that included a plant tour. When I arrived they took one look at me and asked me if I happened to have anything else I could change into because I couldn’t go out on their production floor in a dress. Thankfully I had jeans in my car, so I could change, but I was so embarrassed that I kept apologizing and bringing up that it wasn’t against the dress code at my current job.

  162. Jayne not Jane*

    Once right after graduating college I was asked about my major. I studied Communication Studies with an emphasis in Organizational Communications. The interviewer asked what it was. I was literally 1 month post graduation. I panicked and forgot everything I had learned in 4 years.

    I said-
    “Well you know how organizations communicate… like businesses and stuff”

    He said –
    “Can you elborate a little more?”

    Me-
    “well like whether or not you should order a lobster at a business dinner”

    Him-
    ::Blank stare::

    WTF was I thinking. Now I can look back and laugh. I didn’t get the job.

    1. Jay_Ess*

      now I want to know more about business dinner etiquette. I can guess why you shouldn’t order lobster, but having never attended a business dinner I’m curious about what pitfalls I might encounter.

  163. Andrea*

    This one is painful because I’m still mad about it.

    Two companies ago, I was in a BAD situation. I unwittingly took a position in an area of business that a lot of people felt we shouldn’t be in, so I faced a lot of hostility. AND there was a guy who thought he should have gotten my job, so he spread rumors that I was incompetent, and he was well-respected and people believed him. AND my husband also worked there (totally different area of business, we had nothing to do with each other) so people who were already inclined to dislike me thought that I had slept my way onto the job. I didn’t find any of this out until four years in when I was passed up for a promotion I’d been promised, and I quit.

    A few years after that, a position opened up in the Project Management Office at that company. It was completely separate from the area I had worked in previously and had always seemed to work very efficiently, so I applied. I was well, WELL qualified for it — I’d spent years managing projects and had just gotten my PMP, and I knew the product. The first interview was with the manager, and I aced it.

    Then I had a second interview, with the manager and the guy I’d be replacing — who had been one of the people who didn’t like me from before. He’d since gone to the PMO and was now leaving PMO to go back to his previous job. He asked me a bunch of questions that were really specific to project management at that company: had I used (internal software) before? No, but I’d used project management software, so I was confident that– Had I filled out (specific change request form) before? No, but I was familiar with the general change request process and was certain that– and so on. He talked over me and finished the interview by saying I was grossly underqualified, as usual, and the company had made a mistake hiring me before but he was going to prevent it from happening again. The manager, who I’d impressed so much a few days prior, stayed silent this entire time and just let him dress me down. I was crying by the time it was done.

    Bullet dodged, obviously, but it’s up there in my top ten humiliations of all time.

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      I hope that guy is made to feel small and insignificant by someone he greatly admires. What a jerk!

    2. I Have RBF*

      IMO, you should have noped out of there the first time he talked over you. That’s disgusting that the manager allowed him to treat you like that. They both need to feel the weight of karma for that.

  164. MuseumChick*

    I nearly faceplanted during an interview. It was at a historic house museum and the director was showing me around as we talked. I missed a step while going down the stairs and just fell, I landed on my side. Physically I was totally find but so, so, so embarrassed. The director was very kind, she asked if I was ok and looked really worried. We moved the interview into an office but the whole time all I could think of was falling down the stairs. I was 100% sure I wasn’t going to get the job and spent the whole drive home berating myself. A week later they contacted me with an offer!

  165. KK*

    I interviewed once at a company where it was looking all too obvious that the department was a complete shitshow.

    The interviewer was asking oddly specific questions about resolving conflict. Several were about issues between coworkers: how would you handle coworkers tattling on each other, how would you handle finding a coworkers mistake, how would you handle coworkers that didn’t speak to you.

    The nail in my coffin was when they asked “how would you handle 2 coworkers that were friends who were having an argument about a work decision and demanded that you take side?” After being completely flabberghasted about all of the previous question about this clearly CONFLICTED department, my mouth lost it’s filter and I said “Well, I’m not here to make friends so they will have to solve that without me”

    And while it may have ben the truth, it was something that should not have escaped my lips. I should have given them the answer they wanted to hear.

    It didn’t matter, I was not interested in the job anymore at that point and I did not get an offer.

  166. Big dogs are the best*

    I asked how the company handles a task that I do on a regular basis, and the first words out of my mouth after it was explained was “God, that sounds like a nightmare!” Not one of my finer moments.

  167. Pierrot*

    I don’t have any particularly funny stories off the top of my head, but I had a particularly bad video screening interview for a “dream job” that felt more like an interogation. I cried for about a half hour after it ended, and then when they rejected me a few days later (even though that was not a surprise). Long story short, the impression they gave me of the job during the interview was very different than what the job description stated. I would not have been a good fit for what they actually wanted, and I wish that the description had been clearer in the first place.

    Anyways, this has a happy ending. I felt super demoralized the day that I found out I was rejected, but after sitting with the disappointment for an hour, I applied for another job at a different org on a whim. I was not very optimistic, but I was offered that job and here I am months later! It’s the best job I have ever head. I had a review recently and it went extremely well. I am so glad that I was rejected from the bad interview job, because it pushed me to apply for a job where I feel valued by the organization.

  168. Pumpkin215*

    I was in my early twenties, interviewing with a middle-aged man. He asked me how I dealt with stress.

    I said I like to take bubble baths. I even talked about adding “lots and lots of bubbles”. I did not get the job. I still cringe thinking about it.

  169. all kinds of mania*

    Applying for an academic position as a research faculty which I wanted so bad, I would have chopped my arm off for it.

    One of the faculty on the interviewing committee said something like, “Your theory here on paper x is orthogonal to what you say here on paper y.” I did not know what orthogonal meant. I asked her to repeat the question which she said orthogonal again. Spend the rest of the interview thinking ooortthooogoonaall…??Orth? all? Had every fear and then feeling I was stupid that I’ve ever had come to me, like a thousand screaming ghosts who haunted me for the rest of the interview, and kept looking her pondering.. the…. word. while giving terrible answers to every other question. Didn’t get the job. I did look the word up and had this weird fantasy about writing her an email with the definition, like a 1st grader, for a sticker of affirmation.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      If it makes you feel any better, I saw an argument in a state supreme court where the lawyer said something like, “This argument is orthogonal to the issue.”

      The justices had no idea what he was talking about, and they said so. They were not embarrassed; they were irritated with the lawyer for using unnecessarily complicated words.

      1. Moda Comfort*

        I use that phrase all the time! I genuinely thought it was a commonly understood thing.

        Best answer I ever got back was, “It’s fine, we’re taking a cross-product.”

  170. Grilledcheeser*

    I was interviewing for network engineer positions. Ya know, “making the internet work” sort of stuff. One interview, after a few general questions, they handed me markers, gestured to the gigantic whiteboard that took up one entire wall floor-to-ceiling & 20 feet long, and said “draw the Internet – use the entire board”. My brain FROZE. I had been a network engineer for 10 years at this point, i knew exactly how the internet worked – but my brain just stopped functioning & I had no ideas ready on how to translate my knowledge into a drawing the size of a billboard. After a few very awkward moments of silence, I drew a cloud and wrote “I” in it, and sat down. No one said anything. I said “I guess we’re done!” and walked out.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. I am crying. I would have hired you on the spot.

      1. Grilledcheeser*

        The thing I realized afterwards, is I was in a dress & heels. No ladder in the room. The only chairs in the room were tippy, rolly, very wimpy desk chairs. How was I supposed to get up to the part of the whiteboard at ceiling height?!?

    2. Jay_Ess*

      Reading this, the only image my brain supplied me was a sort of late-90s early-aughties cartoon cool guy surfing the “tubes,” so I think maybe that question is really just designed to inspire panic.

    3. I Have RBF*

      LOL!

      My answer would have been “I’m sorry, the board isn’t big enough for that. There are easily millions of routers and switches alone on the net for IPvIV alone, plus endpoints, plus IPvVI.” Seriously, over three billion routable IP v IV addresses. What were they thinking?

  171. Helen_of_the_Midwest*

    I was interviewing for a position that required four years of experience and was not managerial in any way. The interviewer asked for my vision for my first 30, 60, and 90 days in the role, if I was hired. I was not remotely prepared for this question–this was the first position I’d ever interviewed for that required more than a year of experience. My mind went completely blank. I thanked the interviewer for the question, sat in silence while trying to come up with something, failed, laughed nervously, and said I had no idea how to answer the question. The interviewer offered to take a break and give me a few minutes to think, but I said no, I didn’t think I would come up with anything no matter how long he’d give me. He explained how he would have liked me to answer the question, and we moved on. Obviously, I was not hired.

  172. J*

    Had plenty not great interviews where I came away feeling I’d screwed up, however one of the funniest interview stories I’ve heard is from someone else. i can’t remember where I saw this, but I read about this woman who went for an interview, then when she stood up to leave her skirt tide up to her waist….and she was commando. She was actually offered the job but couldn’t face them again after that so she declined.

      1. Cyndi*

        I own plenty of straight-cut skirts that hit at the knee or just above when I’m standing up, aren’t even too tight, but will bunch all the way up to my hips while I’m sitting down. I’m always VERY careful to tug them down into place as I stand up, though.

      2. J*

        Well if I remember the story correctly it was a leather seat so very slidy, which may have contributed to it!

      3. Not Sending My Best*

        IDK, my dude. I am the exact wrong shape for a lot of skirts and before I figured it out I had a lot of mishaps that involved skirts suddenly meeting bras and appearing inappropriately short.

    1. amoeba*

      Not quite as bad, but I had a somewhat similar experience at my first all-day on-site interview for a science position in industry. So, basically, my first “professional real job interview”. I was wearing a nice, new button-up with a suit and a cross-body purse. Unfortunately, when I was saying goodbye to the hiring manager at the gate, I realised the purse strap had popped open the button over my boobs. Instead of quickly turning away and excusing myself to fix it, I awkwardly tried to fumble it close while making smalltalk. I think I made it worse and a second button popped open, so I somehow shook his hand goodbye while trying to hold everything closed with the other hand. He politely ignored all of that and neither of us acknowledged it in any way.

      It didn’t even seem *that* embarrassing at the time, but looking back, I do wonder whether he thought I was trying to flash him to improve my chance. I mean, I didn’t end up getting the job (which was devastating at the time), but I *think* it was because there were just better candidates… but who know.

  173. Arc9*

    In my early career, I was coasting through a temporary contract with the kind of laziness and entitlement that only a white man can muster, being fairly proficient and professional in my work but assuming that a permanent position was all but guaranteed. When came the time to actually apply for a permanency in the job I was already doing, I got through the initial screening and written test without too much hassle. The interview was conducted by two of my colleagues with whom I got along fairly well. On the day of the interview, I had a half hour to prepare my answers before the interview proper.

    The moment I sat down, things got messy. For context: I’m an English/French bilingual speaker, perfectly fluent in both languages. Unbeknownst to me until then, I categorized everyone I met as either an English speaker or a French speaker, and talked to them accordingly. The problem was that the two colleagues facing me were French speakers, and I’d prepared my answers in English. Cue a painful hour of me trying to live-translate everything I’d written, fumbling every acronym, spacing out on the simplest words, and answering everything in the most unstructured way imaginable. The only solace was that the pain was shared by my interviewers, judging by how they cringed.

    Needless to say, I did not pass.

  174. Sad in the PNW*

    I had my first real interview for a professional job, while also being very broke, and still going through withdrawal from having to go off brain meds because of money. I got about halfway through the interview, and all the stress and all the anxiety came to a head, and I started crying, and I couldn’t stop. I don’t remember if I finished the interview or not, but I definitely didn’t get that job!

  175. Jay_Ess*

    In an interview I probably should have bombed, but instead got hired from, I was asked how I managed working in a group.

    I have a leadership diploma, and do actually do really well in groups, so I talked about building consensus, allowing time for discussion, clear communication, blah blah blah. However, at the time, I was taking extra courses to upgrade my degree and was the only student over 30 doing a group project with a bunch of 17-19 year olds, and really grinding my teeth through that particular process.

    When the interviewer asked me after my discussion of positive group work “what would you do if that didn’t work,” some sort of spirit of dictatorship came over me and I said quite strongly “then I would enforce my will upon them.”

    This was received without a blink, while my hind brain caught up and poured on the charm to try to make up for whatever malevolent spirit had just borrowed my voice.

    Turned out this workplace had huuuuge internal conflict between the staff, and the manager there was part of the problem. As it shook out, I *did* end up enforcing my will there a lot, as well as an impressive amount of managing up.

  176. Moths*

    I was considering dropping out of grad school and started applying for jobs at all related to my field. I had been working on learning a new language in my little free time and thought it would be interesting to go work in a country that speaks that language. I got a video interview with an international company that had some positions posted in that country. That was the only thing going for it, because I wasn’t all that interested in the job or the company. So when one of the interviewers asked me, “Besides it being located in [country], what interests you most about this position?”, I had nothing — complete blank. So I scrambled for an answer and said that I was really excited to work for that company, given their stellar reviews online and their great culture. The interviewers shot a look to each other, wrapped up the interview, and I didn’t get the job. Friends, they had a 1.2 star rating on Glassdoor.

  177. emilygus*

    I was job hunting a couple years ago while still working at another job. I loved the job but it was the most toxic work environment I’ve ever been in. I applied at the local library and got an interview. I was told it was a panel interview and I always get nervous in those. Sidenote: I live in a state where marijuana is recreationally legal. At the discretion of my dr I myself use it along with meds that help with the insomnia I’ve suffered since my teen years. Well I heard from a friend that gummies would help me calm down and relax so I figured I would try a couple before the interview (mind you before was an hour before interview was to start). I got there and felt fine didn’t seem to feel the gummies. Well upon being walked back to the interview with one of my to-be interviewers I started feeling the gummies and it all went downhill from there. I remember sitting in a chair and 3 women shooting questions to me about my use of social media, how familiar I was with different programs etc…
    I still have no memory of how I answered most of these questions except for one. When one of the women asked, “Are you on twitter? Do you post daily?” I mumbled something to the effect of, “umm, yes I tweet.” *facepalm*
    Interview ended and I walked out to my car looked at my watch and only 9 min had passed. I had been told the interview would be no shorter than 45. Needless to say I did not get the job. However one of my co-workers I was working with at the my current job did get that job. I couldn’t help but tell her all about my failed interview. I haven’t eaten gummies since.

  178. Harper*

    Maybe not super funny, but a couple of years ago I interviewed with a large non-profit. I had a pre-screen by a recruiter, followed by 2 separate Zoom interviews, followed by a 5-hour onsite interview with 5 groups of 2-4 people each. In the very first group, there was a woman who didn’t smile at all and seemed almost resentful that I was there. Another group included a sassy, snarky guy who actually criticized a totally logical answer I gave with a disgusted look on his face. Then, at the end, after sitting in a suit in a hot room being grilled for hours, when I was exhausted and completely mentally drained, the hiring manager came back in to “close out” and started asking me really complex and nuanced questions. I really tried, but I know I did not give good answers at that point. I had a strong hunch I didn’t want to work there anyway, and it felt like he was digging for some magical answer I didn’t have that would make his hiring decision for him. Nothing funny/embarrassing happened, but I remember feeling really embarrassed and uncomfortable because my brain was so fried that I couldn’t come up with intelligent responses. I knew I bombed it right at the end.

    By contrast…when I had a 5-hour onsite interview for my current role, everyone was kind, they took me to lunch, every single group asked me if I needed restroom breaks, and they brought me multiple drinks. I got the job, and the company has lived up to the promises made in the interview.

    The moral of the story…don’t put candidates through grueling all-day interviews, and if you must, at least make sure everyone they’re comfortable and everyone they meet is pleasant and engaging. Otherwise you will *not* see them at their best.

  179. Moda Comfort*

    I recently thought I gave a terrible answer to a job interview question that I was certain would knock me out of the running. It was a soft skill question, and I basically have none. I flailed around verbally, made a random walk around the topic, and basically gave a non-answer about how it was such a great question and so important. I thought for sure they would pass. To my surprise, they made me an offer, I accepted it, and I start in 2 weeks! My lack of polish must have been painfully clear from how I answered, so I can only assume that they know what they are getting into with me and are ok with it. Hopefully it will be the same for you.

  180. Happy Penguin*

    My former boss of 4 years was promoted and moved buildings, and I interviewed to be the administrative assistant for his new role. He was a great boss, and the position was a bump in responsibility and pay and I really, really wanted it. The interview was with him and another C-suite manager with whom I’d always had friendly and warm interactions. One would think that would make it easier but while I was qualified and well prepared, I was still nervous. Aside from a couple minor bumps – one being that the room was exceedingly hot and I was sweating and flushed! – it went really well and I thought I was rocking it. The last question the C-Suite asked me was “why should we pick you for this position?” An expected and easy question…except that my mind went completely blank. I could not think of one single reason why they should choose me. I awkwardly tried to come up with something and then looked at my former boss and asked “can I look at my notes?” He chuckled and said of course…and once I saw a couple key words I remembered how amazing and qualified I was, closed my notebook and got back on track. It was absolutely mortifying in the moment, though I can laugh about it now. And I got the job!

  181. Jaybeetee*

    Many moons ago, I was job-hunting during an impending layoff, and got a pre-screen HR interview for a car rental company, which was done by phone.

    I actually think I mostly nailed it. Except when I accidentally referred to them by the name of one of their competitors *facepalm*. The interviewer tactfully corrected me, I was mortified and apologized, we moved on with the interview.

    The reason I think I otherwise nailed that interview is I still scored enough “points” to be referred for an in-person interview at a nearby location. Where the guy asked me one or two questions, then gave me a weird smile and said, “I think we have everything we need,” and I was seen out in under 10 minutes and never heard from them again. I suppose there could have been something about seeing me in-person, or how I answered those one or two questions, that could have thrown it off, but I always figured my faux-pas in the first interview torpedoed my chances.

    That was a long time ago, and I’ve moved onto bigger and better things since then. But I sure felt lousy about it at the time.

  182. Broken toe in heels*

    Many years ago I was young and dumb and in a horribly bad job I was desperate to leave. I had also recently broken my toe and was recovering from mono. Instead of rescheduling the interview I stuffed my broken toe into heels and drug myself to the interview still looking and sounding terrible from the mono and being in the hospital. The interview was not going well and when they asked why I was looking to leave my current job I started crying about how mean they were at my job (lots of crazed yelling from the ceo) and how they tried to make me work having just got hone from the hospital. I hobbled out of there still crying and never heard from them again.

    1. Broken toe in heels*

      story 2! I was unemployed during the great recession and had managed to finally score a couple interviews. Had an interview that went well on Monday. The interview with the second place was on Tuesday at a coffee shop. the person at the next table over? Interviewer from Monday who listened in while I panicked my way through. I picked the first job and it was the wrong choice.

      1. amoeba*

        Ha. I have a similar story. When I interviewed in person for my current position a few years back, I had actually just signed a (one year, but with possibility of extension and supposed to last 2-3 years) contract for a postdoc position in academia. I had applied several months ago before getting the other offer, but the process was quite slow – so I decided to do the interview anyway, because hey, that was an actual permanent position! I was quite enthusiastic about the postdoc as well, though.

        So, I walk into the lobby and who’s there, greeting my? The PI from the postdoc position, my future boss. Who, it turned out, was actually a scientific consultant for the company and was visiting them the same day. I just stammered something about “err, yes, I have… an appointment here!” and hoped he would leave before the hiring manager showed up! (He did. I’m sure he figured it out anyway.)

        It ended up all turning out for the best though: they actually decided to make me an offer, but then went into a hiring freeze. The hiring manager apologised profusely but I was like “oh, that’s OK, actually!” They came back to me almost a year later and asked whether I was still interested. My PI was actually super supportive about finding an industry position and I left on good terms after finishing my one year there. I also still work with him as a consultant now.

  183. Tupac Coachella*

    I had been working part time for a few months juggling two (sometimes three) jobs, and was excited to be interviewed for a full time opening that would allow me to go down to one. It was a big deal (especially since I’d never had a full time job before). On my way up the stairs, I realized that the button on the wrist of my long sleeved shirt had come undone. At that exact moment, a friendly coworker appeared and asked if I was excited (it was public knowledge that they were hiring for the job and I was interviewing). I said I was SO NERVOUS, then after a few more seconds of struggling with one-handed buttoning, asked her if she could button my sleeve, which she did. We hit the top of the stairs…and both walked into the HR office…where she joined the rest of my interview panel, and I sat in the lobby and fully processed that I’d just had one of my interviewers button my shirt for me. On the up side, I got the job. I guess fancy button work wasn’t one of their criteria.

  184. LucyGoosy*

    The scene: I’m applying for a summer job at a well-known department store. I have no retail experience and have only had one other job, so this is only the second interview I’ve ever had. The interviewer takes me to the room where they interrogate shoplifters and asks me to describe how I would sell a garment to a customer who had already said they were “just browsing.” I have no idea how to do that. As I’m fumbling my way through the answer, the department store intercom sounds and I, in my panicked, naïve wisdom, decide to “distract” the interviewer and say, “Oh, what’s that!?” The interviewer very calmly explains that it’s an intercom. I say, “Oh…does it always make sounds like that?!” The interviewer told me, yes, it always makes sounds like that. I did not get the job.

  185. Seriously?*

    I was interviewing for a job with the title _____ Support ______. Obviously I knew that. I’d applied for the job. I printed out the job description and had it with me. But when the manager started talking, I heard, “_____ Sports _____.” My brain got stuck wondering what this job had to do with sports? Luckily I figured it out before actually ASKING what the job had to do with sports! I can only say it had been 20 years since I’d interviewed for a job, I was changing careers, and I was nervous. Got the job, though!

  186. Another Librarian (and proud of it!)*

    The most embarrassing moment I’ve ever had at an interview was when one of the interviewers asked me a question, and I responded to the other interviewer as if she’d asked the question. I knew immediately what I’d done, because the person I answered looked really surprised and started writing on her notepad.

  187. Punkin*

    In response to a question about problem solving skills, I once told an interviewer that I made a client cry. The client had spent a lot of time and energy acting on incorrect information from a previous consultant. I was the bearer of this unfortunate news (hence the crying) and helped the client find a path forward (problem solving yay!). I have NO IDEA why I didn’t leave the crying part out or choose a different example. I did not get the job.

  188. Abogado Avocado.*

    In the dark ages when I was in law school, they had summer internship interviews at the start of my second year. Generally, you wanted to interview with firms that you hoped would be able to offer you a permanent position that you’d start after you took the bar exam. Bigger firms even offered signing bonuses, which you’d use to afford bar review. A lot was riding on these interviews.

    My first interview was with a large and well-regarded firm that was much sought after for internships. So, when the interviewer asked, “What do you want to do with your legal career?” I blithely answered, “Oh, I want to practice law, but I really want to serve on local boards and commissions because it’s important to give back to your community.” Not, I want to build a law practice and make the firm lots of money (which is what law firms care about). Not, I want to serve on boards and commissions as a way to build a law practice to make the firm lots of money (ditto). I don’t know what I was thinking because I obviously wasn’t thinking.

    I did not get the internship.

  189. el l*

    I once – about 3 years into my career – had an interview with a prominent government agency. We didn’t connect, to the extent that one of them angrily shouted at me, “Why won’t you answer the question?” to what I thought was a straightforward and direct response.

    I didn’t so much get a “no thanks” email from them. It took me no more than 5 minutes to laugh and say, “Wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.”

    After that, I’ve never feared a bad interview. Figured it couldn’t be worse than that.

  190. Lunch Meat*

    When I was in high school I applied for a page job in a library. I LOVE libraries and always have, I would live in them if I could. But I was also undiagnosed autistic and had no idea what expectations people had of me anywhere, ever. The interview was super basic, it was designed to be a first job for people with very little experience. But they basically asked, “What about you would make you good for this job?” and my answer was “Um, I can’t think of anything.” I don’t know how I thought they would decide to hire me. Maybe just mindreading?

  191. KatCardigans*

    I coasted on loans for a little bit when I first started grad school for library science, but when I realized that I would need something to supplement my finances, I wanted to do something relevant to my field, and I applied to be a page at the local public library. A page is a low-level enough position that their work is often done by volunteers. Nevertheless, it was the first interview I’d EVER had to do outside of school, and I was very nervous. So nervous, in fact, that when they wheeled a cart of books in for me to sort, I blanked on the middle of the alphabet. I could hear myself chattering away in sort of a high, brittle voice as I sorted, and when I was done, they checked my work and announced that I had filed LMNO completely backwards. K-O-N-M-L-P. Friends, I held an English degree and had successfully worked in a bookstore for several years. The order of the alphabet had never been a problem before and has never been a problem since.

    I did not get that job, and I avoided that library branch for 3-4 years afterward, because the first time I went back in, the lady at the desk cheerfully said, “Oh, I remember your interview!” and I think I visibly wilted. (It is actually still the branch nearest me, and I have gotten over it now and am a regular patron…but there have now been 11 years to dull the embarrassment.)

  192. Elle Woods*

    I interviewed at a small firm that invited me to interview for a position as their marketing director. The whole thing was a disaster. They asked questions that were illegal (if I was married, did I plan to have kids, was I religious) or just plain dumb (what kind of tree would you be, what’s your favorite pizza topping, what’s your favorite color) and very few about the actual role itself. After a couple of minutes, I knew there was no way in hell I’d take the job but decided to remain professional and finish the interview.

    I *almost* did until they wanted to talk salary. They threw out a number that was outrageously low and I responded with, “You can’t be serious.”

    I did not get the job (thankfully).

  193. The Taking of Official Notice*

    An interviewer once commented that I looked too polished to work for their company. (They were dressed in business casual; I was wearing an entirely thrifted hybrid business casual/formal outfit.)

    I responded: “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want this job.”