the aggressive brownie recipe, the bad math and other times you mortified yourself in job interviews

Earlier this month, I asked you to share stories of bombed interviews and other job search mortifications. Here’s part two (part one was last week).

1. The phlebotomist

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?!?

2. The children

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.

3. The Games attendant

When I was a teenager, I interviewed for a job as a Games attendant in an amusement park. 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.

4. The blinking

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.

5. The misspeaking

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.

6. The elementation

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.

7. The irritation

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.

8. The honesty

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.

9. The duck face

Whilst waiting 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.

10. The advice for predators

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. I was almost 40 years old! Not surprisingly, the advice didn’t apply and I did not get the job.

11. The math

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.

12. The mind blank

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 five 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.

13. The misunderstanding

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, it’s 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.

14. The lyrics

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.

15. The wrong-sounding word

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.

16. The hang-up

Conducting a phone interview in my second language – of which I’m conversationally fluent and have worked in before, but not native – didn’t understand a question, froze, and promptly forgot all words, then hung up. They called back so I just turned my phone off.

Thankfully no further follow up.

17. The brownie recipe

I’d been job hunting for a year, looking for an editorial assistant position. I applied with a major publisher in NYC and passed their initial screen and editing test. But the interview was with a panel of three editors, and I was so out of my depth – unfamiliar with their authors and genre – and so desperate. I kept mentioning my outstanding brownie recipe for some reason – like, bribing them with baked goods? It was horrible.

18. The laugh

This is more a victory than a bombing but:

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.

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. ZSD*

    4. I’m unclear on whether people actually told this person that they didn’t blink enough, or if they were searching for “non-weakness weakness” answer and somehow came up with that.

    1. AFac*

      I did once get paid due to my habit of not blinking enough.

      At university I volunteered to help a friend as a subject in their EEG study, the sort where they place electrodes on your face and head. As part of the study, we were asked not to blink at certain times so the electrodes would measure brain activity and not blinking.

      I apparently was so good at not blinking the lab invited me back for another study that paid their participants.

    1. Holy Forking Shirtballs*

      From now on, whenever I’m feeling blue, I’m going to think of this story to cheer myself up.

    2. Cookingcutie11*

      As an interviewer, I wouldn’t be able to wait until the person left to laugh. I don’t think I’d be able to keep a straight face.

  2. Roy Donk*

    #15 reminds me of the time we had a Myers-Briggs consultant in our office and one of our bosses kept talking, seemingly obliviously, about his “big P-ness”.

    1. Double A*

      In my AP English class we were discussing Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool” and our teacher kept talking about the “We-ness” of the poem and the roomful of 17 year olds were not holding it together.

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      Similarly, I worked in a lab where, in the middle of a long and boring meeting, someone decided to pronounce PNAS (the journal) as a word rather as than the acronym (which is standard). It was priceless.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        We have PSAC as an acronym for a type of document that’s common in our workplace. People generally pronounce it “P – sack”, but one day my coworker’s husband asked her why she kept talking about a pee sack instead of just saying bladder. And now I giggle every time I need to look at a PSAC.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I got onto a paddleboard for the first time about a year ago, and I asked, “So, it’s basically like a canoe, you just use a J-stroke, right?”
          Truly, as a woman in her thirties who first learned to paddle a canoe around the age of seven, it hadn’t once crossed my mind that that would provoke a giggle in some people. I learned differently that day.

            1. Jill Swinburne*

              I didn’t either, so I looked it up
              on Urban Dictionary. Now I, too, have been educated.

      2. My Cabbages!*

        I am internally 12 because I always snigger when I see that journal cited

        Now I teach Anatomy & Physiology and snigger whenever I abbreviate the Peripheral Nervous System or the Autonomic Nervous System.

    3. Eulerian*

      I once heard about two siblings surnamed Ness. I can’t remember what their first names were, except that their first initials were (you guessed it) P and A.

  3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I love laughing in the face of someone offering an absurdly low salary. What a boss move.

    1. Pickle Pizza*

      Agreed. I’ve done this on more than one occasion. If employers have looked at my resume and honestly thought that I’d accept their insultingly low salary with a masters degree, they deserve to be laughed at.

    2. Rainy*

      I was interviewing for a role once and they hadn’t posted the salary. I went through two rounds of interviews and no salary info, and at a certain point I was just so curious about how long they could keep it going that I didn’t ask. When they invited me for the fly-out, I got on the phone with the contact person for the search and said “before I agree to an on-site, I need to know what your budget for the position is.” After a few rounds of “Surely they told you” “No I assure you no one has ever mentioned a number”, the contact person finally sought permission from the head of department to give me a number, received that permission, and called me to tell me triumphantly that it was…more than 10k *less* than what I was making at the time, for a job that was a significant title bump and a lot more responsibility.

      Readers, I laughed. And when I was done laughing, the contact person said “Do you want me to ask if they can come up?” I, still mopping my eyes and wheezing gently, said “Will they come up at least 15k?” She said “I mean…I can ask?” with the kind of dubiousness usually reserved for asking people if they’d like to be mauled by a bear.

      I said “I really appreciate your time and effort coordinating my interviews, and it was great to meet you, but I think it makes sense to withdraw from this process. I really do wish you the best of luck filling this position!”

      As far as I know they failed that search.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        I was once recruited for a help desk position at a large, well-known local company. I knew people who had this exact job at that company so I knew what it should pay (roughly $13/hr at that time). The recruiter offered me $8.75. (Minimum back then was something like $7.25)

        I straight up laughed in their face and hung up.

        1. whingedrinking*

          A friend of mine had been out of the country for about five years teaching English, and when she came back she was interviewing at various places, including a tutoring place. Apparently she interviewed at one where they offered her about fifty cents an hour over minimum wage, which she declined because “that seems low”.
          They’re lucky she had been away so long, because someone who’d been in the province and working in that area would likely have laughed in their face or just walked out of the interview.

          1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

            I *almost* felt bad for the recruiter who was obligated to have these conversations with people about this ridiculous pay rate. I mean, imagine having to keep saying “this is the maximum the client will pay” with a straight face forty times a day when everybody in town knows someone who works there and we all know the score. “It’s a good chance to get your foot in the door” you know what’s a better chance? Applying directly for the job at the company *not* through some sleazeball temp agency.

            1. Paul Z*

              When I was in Seattle trying to avoid Microsoft temp jobs, applying directly for a job rather than through the infinitude of sleazeball temp agencies was a guaranteed way NOT to get it, because accepting direct applicants who were trying to dump the agency would have violated Microsoft’s contract with the sleazeball temp agencies.

              Additionally, it was the applicant’s responsibility to keep track of the identifiers each agency submitted them for, and make sure they didn’t accidentally apply to the same position twice. Because if that happened, MS wouldn’t be able to hire them through EITHER agency, because they wouldn’t know which agency gets the headhunting fee. This was especially great when the really sleazy agencies would submit you for positions without telling you (this is illegal as well as unethical but that didn’t seem to stop all of them).

              I’m glad I left Seattle.

    3. Morgan Proctor*

      I’m haunted by the one time this happened to me and I DIDN’T laugh in their faces. Instead, like a coward, I accepted their offer. I really needed the job, and it turned out the insultingly low salary was just the beginning of the long list of things that were sneakily dysfunctional about that organization. I barely lasted a year. It’s the only job I’ve ever felt compelled to leave off my resume.

      1. nonprofit llama groomer*

        Same. It was my third job out of grad school. I still kick myself about it but I was so desperate to leave the job I was in (it actually wasn’t a terrible job, just not a great fit) and had no confidence in myself due to the first job’s toxicity.

      2. Rose*

        There is nothing cowardly at all about needing to pay your bills. I hope you’re in a position to laugh the next time this happens.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Just–a power up or new level or whatever the gamers call it! Unlock that quest, OP!

    5. Godbert*

      I did it once, and it was genuinely involuntary, but I got lucky in that it was productive in the end! I was very well qualified and had all the relevant experience they wanted, the interviews had gone well, and the boss had let it slip that they were kind of desperate and in a hurry to hire. HR called me two days after the interview to formally offer me the position, and here’s how the money part went. For the sake of the exercise, let’s say that a typical salary for this position would be $40K.

      HR: (excited) “Given all of your credentials and experience, we are very excited to offer you a salary of $28K. What do you think?”

      Me: (burst out laughing) “No.”

      HR: (shocked) “… No?”

      Me: “No.”

      HR: (stiffly) “You will not accept a salary of $28K?”

      Me: (giggling because what else am I going to lose at this point) “No. $28K is too low to accept.”

      HR: (angrily) “WELL, I’m NOT authorized to go ANY higher than that. I will talk to Boss and tell him you DID NOT ACCEPT THE OFFER at $28K, and WE’LL SEE WHAT HE SAYS but $28K is the HIGHEST I can offer.”

      Me: “OK”

      [phone rings three hours later]

      HR: (very pleasant) “Hello, I just wanted to let you know that I talked to Boss and he would like to offer you the position again at $42K”

      and at that point I did take the job. I don’t know if HR messed up with the numbers, or if hella lowballing was a deliberate strategy, but it could have been either or honestly both — the conversation was a pretty accurate microcosm of how that job’s bureaucracy worked. But my day-to-day work was pretty chill.

  4. Not That Kind of Doctor*

    I feel for Brownie Recipe. In younger days I interviewed for a team leader position at a large hospital. One of the questions the interviewers asked was how I would deal with poor team morale. I talked about how I had quarterly dinners for my current team and other cooking related demonstration of my appreciation (my role had no influence over things like pay and benefits). I cringe in retrospect and wish I could go back to respond by saying I would need some more context before I could answer that with any sort of specificity – like what seems to be driving the poor morale in the first place.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think you dodged a bullet there – sounds like the organisation has morale issues due to systemic factors and they try to put it on individual supervisors to solve.

  5. shammaye*

    Ha #12!! In a similar setting I also failed to remember my state rep and responded with “I think that’s a personal question and I don’t feel comfortable answering.”

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      My grandmother was apparently asked who the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) was when a doctor was screening her for signs of dementia. Her mind was absolutely fine but she always had difficulty with names so she replied with “ah, that fellow with the red hair. I don’t like him anyway, so I couldn’t care less what his name is!”

      1. Alpaca Bag*

        When I was at the hospital being checked for a stroke and they asked who the President was, apparently I said “It’s not still that a**hole, is it?” (I’m not telling when it was so we can keep politics out of this.)

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          OMG, this reminds me of last night: we were watching Red Letter Media about the Friday the 13th movies, and they showed a clip from Jason X (Jason in Space) where he runs into a computer simulation of “horny teen girls” proclaiming their love of smoking pot, skinny dipping, and premarital sex, in pretty typical teen-nasal twang. One of them pulls of her shirt and asks “Do YOU wanna have premarital sex???”

          My heterosexual husband, watching this scene, instantly replied “Are you going to be talking the whole time?”

          Yes reader, I married him. For this exact moment.

        2. AnonRN*

          When I ask patients this I usually preface it with “you don’t have to like him, but can you tell me the name of the President?” To be fair I’ve been saying it this way since before 2016.

        3. Random Bystander*

          After my mother had a first time grand mal seizure, she was in the ER and they asked her to count backwards from 100 by 7s. As she related the story, she said she had said, “100, 93, oh I was never good at math anyway.” (Note: she took and passed calculus and statistics in college, it’s just that those classes came much harder to her than the ones in her field–she was a hospice chaplain until she retired.)

          1. Rose*

            These are the kinds of questions that make me straight up panic. I was great at calc and stats, they’re very intuitive/logical to me. Counting backwards by 7s is just on the spot subtraction and keeping numbers straight in my head which I’m horrible at.

          2. Old Woman in Purple*

            I can’t ‘count backwards by 7s’ when I’m stone-cold-sober and in my right mind!

          3. Princess Sparklepony*

            Counting backwards by 7s is cruel. I can’t count forwards by 7s. I think they use that one in field sobriety tests. I would end up in jail.

        4. Jen*

          When I was coming out of a coma a couple of years ago they asked me who the president was. I said, “Well, I know who I hope it isn’t!”

          I also eventually figured out that when they asked me the date I could read it off the whiteboard in my room. They knew I was improving!

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        My grandmother used to answer, “That jerk!” when The Orange One was in office. My family assured the medical staff that she knew exactly who he was.

        1. anon24*

          As an EMT I’ve asked people all the time who the president is when checking their mental baseline. I’ve gotten all kinds of answers, from a simple name to groans to praise to whatever. My absolute favorite that I will never forget was an older gentleman with dementia who couldn’t tell me who the president was. We were at the hospital and the nurse goes “Its Donald Trump, remember? We just talked about this!” He started laughing in the most incredulous manner and goes “what? Trump? Trump is president? No! No it can’t be…”

      3. Emby*

        my wife’s grandmother was being checked for a stroke in 2017 and when the doctor asked who the president was, she made a disgusted face, and everyone decided that was an acceptable answer

      4. BubbleTea*

        In the last few years in the UK, this question stopped being a useful screener for memory issues because you didn’t need to have the start of memory loss to forget who’s turn it was in the role of doom.

        1. Gracie*

          The correct answer is Larry, of course

          (I believe it also got phased out in Australia as a screening question during their own merry-go-round of political leaders)

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yay for Larry, the only remotely sensible inhabitant of 10 Downing Street in the last 13 years!

          2. coffee*

            “Kevin Rudd” could have been both an incorrect or a correct answer at one point, with no way of telling which time period the answerer was referring to.

            1. Bruce*

              Also Tony Abbott…
              Ridiculous incompetence on both sides of the aisle, but at least Gillard & Turnbull lasted longer before they were knifed than Truss?

        2. whingedrinking*

          I once had to change an assignment I’d made for my class three cycles in a row because it included “_______ is the British PM and lives at 10 Downing Street” as an example sentence.

      1. Freya*

        To be fair, I haven’t moved since before the last election and have zero idea which party my local MP is from, much less their name. I know how to find out, but they’re not trying to get my vote, so I haven’t heard from them since that election and all the poorly worded election advertising from all parties.

    2. Jaydee*

      I just imagine the interviewers being like “Your address is on your resume. We can just look it up on the Secretary of State’s website. It is truly the most public of information.”

  6. Ian*

    Man, for a bunch of these, all I can think is that these interviewers clearly have no sense of humor or no awareness of how stressful interviews can be. A lot seem like scenarios where you could both laugh and then the interviewer could say “ok, let me clarify the question, let’s try that again” and then it might actually be useful for both of you!

    1. Rainbow*

      I have royally messed up an interviews in a way that would fit this prompt. It was over technical knowledge in my field. The interviewer politely pushed for the right answer instead of the idiotic (technically correct, but utterly bizarre) one I had given, I realized my idiocy, we laughed and moved on (and I got the job).

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      Also, it seems like many of these folks were in or around high school-age when these things happened? That shouldn’t count! Everyone says dumb stuff in interviews when we’re that age!

  7. Mango Freak*

    In a Psych class in college, I made a comment about acting differently in “Situation A vs Situation B,” and the professor starting riffing on how I put my “A-ness in one situation and B-ness in another.”

    I heard someone behind me mutter, “Good thing she didn’t say ‘Situation P.'”

  8. french is hard*

    #16, I did the same exact thing. I was having a lot of trouble understanding someone in a phone interview and when they asked a question in French (bilingual customer service position for Canada), I just completely blanked and the phone interview ended swiftly. C’est la vie, I suppose.

    1. beezus*

      That happened to me in a final for an advanced French course. Like head-empty couldn’t remember almost ANY French never mind answer short essays. It was mortifying–I turned in my test SO early and just left. Please note my undergrad minor was…in French literature.

    2. Tricksie*

      This happened to me at my very first phone interview for a faculty job. My PhD is in Chinese, but the teaching gig was all in English. The first question they asked me was in Chinese and they wanted me to describe my research… I completely blanked. I believe I sounded like Elmo. “Me study books.” I don’t even remember the rest of the interview. I just had 0% expectation that they would interview me in Chinese???

    3. Always a Corncob*

      #16 one made me laugh! I would totally do the same thing. Just panic and pretend the entire situation is not happening.

  9. IndoorKitty*

    These remind me of the time I interviewed for a copy editor job at a big romance novel publisher. Yes, THAT one. I think I was doing really well when the interviewer asked me “one last question” which was, what did I think of romance novel readers. My mouth started before my brain kicked in, and I responded “Well, at least they’re reading!” Which, of course, does not represent my opinion of romance readers. I then proceeded to call her by her nickname which I hadn’t been invited to do because my editor colleagues at the time all called her that because they knew her personally. Mortified? You bet. Naturally, I didn’t get the job.

  10. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    I never understood whatsoever the whole duck face thing – why, what for, when would it ever be appropriate? And that you’d do the whole interview that way, lol.

    1. Hrodvitnir*

      Realistically, I think *very slightly* pursing your lips (or more just relaxing your face) can absolutely be part of positioning yourself flatteringly. Learning how to photograph well is a specific skill. It just… got out of hand for a while there.

  11. Ink*

    On the upside #16, especially if there was no attempt to stutter something out, I would ABSOLUTELY assume was a phone issue, not a person issue. Might not be able to move forward with you, but probably doesn’t think less of you.

    I’m pretty sure #1 has discovered my county hospital’s hiring process for the phlebotomy department. They’ve been better the last 5 years or so, but for DECADES they were horribly, impossibly bad at doing blood draws. Like, genuinely traumatic BAD. Any other department in the hospital, at minimum an average level of skill doing blood draws and IVs. The phlebotomy department? Forget it, we’re driving somewhere completely different to get it done.

  12. Buttercup*

    I’ve done #8 before and I stand by it. I had an interview where basically the entire applicant pool was people whose positions in the company had just been eliminated, including mine. Every other applicant had kids or other dependents, while I was living with my parents, who didn’t charge me rent, and would realistically be fine without income for a while. So I said so, that I would greatly appreciate the career opportunity, but the other candidates had more to lose than I did and would need the income more than me. I didn’t get it, and I’m glad for the person who did.

    1. Goldenrod*

      Here’s my question for LW #9 – if you had gotten the job, would you have felt obligated to commit to duck face FOREVER? :D

  13. Lynn*

    Oh man #2. If it makes you feel any better, you are not the only one I have heard of doing this…

    My SIL graduated with an art degree and was looking for jobs as an elementary school art teacher. I asked if she was interested in teaching at at an art camp or doing nanny work over the summer and she said “no, I don’t really like kids.”

    Her art teacher job search did not go well.

    1. Selena81*

      There are degrees where most jobs in that field are teaching the subject.
      I feel this is the source of a lot of unhappy frustrated teachers, who did not realize they’d spend their career back in highschool

    2. Glazed Donut*

      Thank you!
      In my defense, the kids’ age group was really young – like first and second graders – and I had no desire to hang out with them (I DID want the job because the cool kids worked there).
      I went on to become a middle and high school teacher – completely different world, in my mind!

  14. TechWarbler*

    Oh gosh, #11, I made the same mistake once when I had gotten change back from a cashier – had a brain fart and thought there were 60 cents in a dollar and I asked for more change back from a cashier than they gave me. Super embarrassing, and now there is a permanent hitch in my brain that thinks there are 60 cents in a dollar. I still think this sometimes if I’m not careful!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I once asked for two tens and a five back as change for a twenty. After an eternity of just staring at me dumbfounded, the cashier repeated my request back to me and I heard what I had said instead of what I had meant. I did end up with a ten, a five, and five singles that I had originally intended to ask for eventually, and they got a good laugh out of the situation.

      Twenty years later, I still haven’t figured out what my arithmetic skills were off doing that day.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        You were channeling your inner conman! There are change scams – they do one in Paper Moon.

    2. Making Change*

      I’m so glad I’m not alone! Luckily the owner thought it was very funny and hired me, and I practiced making change in my head a *lot* during the rare moments of downtime.

    3. GoryDetails*

      I think that “making change” math is a very different skill-set from “just the numbers” math – at least for me. I was really, really good at math in school, took a double major in math and computer science, had no problem with any math-related problems or activities – except for making change for others. I learned this doing a (short) stint as a volunteer cashier at the campus movie theater, and found that I could simply freeze up looking at a handful of change, no idea how to even move on… (I can work out my *own* change when paying for things, but figuring out someone else’s while they were staring at me impatiently was not something I could handle.)

      1. Christine*

        My degrees are in math and physics. I teach math and science. The one time I did a volunteer gig at an event entry table, I found I could not make change. I’ve been practicing ever since but have avoided volunteering for that position ever since.

      2. Indisch blau*

        My first Job during high school was at a drug store with cash registers that didn’t show the change due. I was taught to count up from the amount due to the amount given: 4.17, take 3 pennies from the till, 4.20, a nickel, 4.25, 3 quarters, 5 dollars. No math involved.
        I was good at math, though. When we closed our small record department with 25% off on every album, a little Boy came to the counter with a record. I did the math on a paper bag: price times 0.75, told him what he owed and he said, “Wow! You must be really smart!” His mom: “They probably taught her how to do that.”

    4. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      When I was in 3rd grade, I was brought to tears by a math exercise that made no sense to me. We were learning to add and subtract time, but for some reason, they had us setting it up like a regular math problem like where you’re carrying ones between the columns. Like it was set up as a normal base-10 math problem but I guess you were just supposed to remember that you had to stop at 60 instead of 100. To this day, I think it’s the dumbest possible way to teach that and I’m pretty sure it’s not my fault that it felt impossible!

    5. Natalie*

      The 60 cents thing actually happens a lot to people!
      It’s because we have 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 minutes in an hour, so we’re used to doing lots of math where 60 smaller units equals one whole.
      It goes the other way as well. Traveling with a friend, he glanced at a digital clock that said 3:50, and he thought it was half past three. Took a few tries to get ourselves sorted out! :)

  15. Coffee Protein Drink*

    I looked at my watch during an interview. That one still haunts me. It was a half-day long thing and I was talking to different teams each hour.

    I didn’t get the job, of course, but considering that one of the team members I interviewed with said, “Oh, we only work 65-70 hours a week,” I may have dodged a bullet.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      That doesn’t strike me as especially bad, honestly? I’ve checked my watch or the clock in the room during an interview to gauge whether I need to shorten up my responses or if we’ve got plenty of time. Or if it was a half-day affair, maybe you were checking when the next break was because you needed the restroom or something. But I’ve never been on a hiring committee, so maybe I’m naive in thinking that shouldn’t count against you…

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        One watch-check in an hour-long session like that (“talking to different teams each hour”) would definitely not be a big deal – am I going to have time for questions, do I have time to bring up X, can I wait until between sessions to ask for a quick break, whatever. More than that would raise eyebrows from me.

      2. glouby*

        Interviews are exhausting for the committee/panel too – I doubt I would even notice (unless said watch checking was accompanied by theatrical eye rolls and audible sighs, etc.).

      3. Netlawyer*

        I check the time in interviews since many panels will rotate asking a set of questions off a list, so when about 15-ish minutes are left – I’ll point that out and mention that I want to make sure we cover everything they want to ask and let them know that I’d like a few minutes for questions of my own.

    2. Ms. Murchison*

      That’s such a reflexive movement when you wear watches that I’d hope a reasonable interviewer wouldn’t hold it against you.

  16. grammar police*

    Do the rules prohibit pointing out errors in AAM’s text? Mortify is an intransitive verb (so there can’t be an object, e.g. “yourself”)

    1. Pippa K*

      Don’t know if there’s an AAM rule for this specific type of correction, but you are mistaken. Mortify is transitive, according to both the OED and Merriam-Webster.

    2. 2e asteroid*

      The OED has

      8. trans To cause to feel humiliated; to cause (a person) mortification (freq. in pass)

      which this usage seems to fit into pretty neatly. The first citation of this sense is in 1691.

    3. Gracie*

      If you click the hyperlink above every comment box where it says “commenting rules”

      7. Don’t nitpick.
      • Don’t nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices.

      Very easy to check that for yourself, really

    4. Mal Voyage*

      I keep spinning this around in my head, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to use “mortify” in a sentence without an object.

      Like, are you saying this is the correct usage: “I mortify when I’m on the wrong end of Muphry’s law”?

  17. learnedthehardway*

    I was SO disappointed to flub an interview with a major consulting company. They were clearly trying to suss out my team orientation, and while I was totally honest – clearly that wasn’t the answer they were going for. The best example I had was of my MBA team – I took on the project coordinator/progress management of keeping us organized IN ADDITION to doing my share of the work. The hiring team said I must be more suited to management than to the individual contributor role they were hiring.

    Personally, I think that was a silly interpretation of my answer, and a bad reason to conclude that a candidate was going to less team oriented than they wanted. But they didn’t want to hear my clarification that the choice for me to do this was a team decision, just as having the PhD in physics team member check all our calculations was his special contribution. It was very disappointing, because the interview had seemed to be going quite well until then.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      If it makes you feel better, I interview law school students for a legal internship and I would think that was a perfectly good/reasonable response to give to that question.

  18. VaguelySpecific*

    I was once asked “do you have any problems working with men?” During an interview for a manufacturing engineer position. Yes, I am a female. I knew this probably wasn’t the kind of place I wanted to work as soon as they asked that question but was too polite (and desperate to get out of my horrendously toxic current job) to say anything more than “No” in response

    In the years since I have managed to think of many more appropriate responses to that question which include:
    “No, do you have a problem working with women?”
    “Do you also ask men this question during interviews?”
    “ I’ve chosen a career in a field which is mostly men, what do you think?”
    And finally, simply getting up and walking out of room.

    1. Goldenrod*

      There’s also the aforementioned “laugh in their face” option.

      I can see why this preys on your mind!

    2. Critical Rolls*

      “That’s a disappointing question, I was led to believe I would be working with kittens.”

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Or make them explain it.

      “A problem working with men? What do you mean?”

      “What a f-… what an interesting question”

      1. NoMoreFirst TimeCommenter*

        I genuinely don’t understand what they were looking for with that one. Do their male employees often do things that they think women wouldn’t want to experience, like sexual harassment or swearing? Are they worried that women might be overly sensitive? Or look for an employee who won’t complain when the men do something genuinely inappropriate? Do they want to make sure that the applicant’s spouse is OK with a male dominated workplace so there won’t be any jealousy drama?

        1. Gracie*

          I wonder if it’s one of those things where they just had someone quit because (as we’ve seen in AAM letters) they’ve decided they refuse to meet with their male manager/direct reports anymore, or refuse to go to conferences with men, and subsequently flounced

          And now the interviewers ask weirdly specific questions to filter out this situation, despite it being incredibly uncommon and just something they should deal with if it ever comes up again, not something they should try to filter for

          1. Hrodvitnir*

            I tend to think it’s more likely they’ve had women be harassed and ask management to do something about it (which they see as the problem) than they’ve had women in a male-dominated industry refuse to interact with men.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I thought they probably meant “it’s a very male dominated environment and you’d be pretty much the only woman” and it didn’t come out right. I would have answered (as a woman in engineering myself I know this situation) assuming that that was what they’d meant and then be on the lookout for any other ‘sexist’ comments rather than just assume it from that.

  19. Certaintroublemaker*

    #3, a friend and I took a job during college which required calling out to people in a touristy/boardwalk type environment to get them to come over. We hated it and lasted a day. Unless you really, truly love doing that verbal hustling kind of thing, better all around you didn’t get that job.

    1. Selena81*

      Yeah, it’s a job for a certain kind of personality. And that’s perfectly fine.

      What isn’t fine is that some of the people with that personality are convinced they can teach (or force) that personality onto others: ‘breaking them out of their shell’.
      These people brag about all the shy people they turned into successful hucksters, when the reality is that most of their new hires self-selected out and quit.

  20. Frances*

    When I was a 16/17 years old I was a camp counselor but the stupidist thing I did was allow my mother to make the phone call. I strongly believe that it took so long to get a group when I was sixteen and why I wasn’t rehired after another summer at camp. Those circumstances have precluded me from moving forward in my life and left me to have a sense of entitlement for years. I learned to actually move forward you have to advocate for yourself. Sad it took many years to figure it out.

  21. Serin*

    These often involve a moment that my ex-boss described as “a blinding flash of the obvious” — where there’s an absolute microsecond between the moment something occurs to you and the moment that you understand that everybody in the world knew this and no one in their right mind could possibly not know it.

    Does it require special skills to draw blood? Do child-related jobs usually go to people who like working with children? Do waiters often do math? (Or, in my case, do the outsides of saucepans ever get dirty? Do people who tell you they called want you to do anything with that information?)

    The wheels of the universe align and you can see what everyone sees, but only after you’ve said something else.

  22. Lady Blerd*

    Oh hey, my contribution made the cut (the would-be amusement park games attendant). It took me a very long time to develop an extorverted side for work, these days I’d would be able to do it and I’d know how to answer that question. But I also know myself well enough to self select out and never even consider applying.

    1. glouby*

      That makes so much sense – I can definitely relate.

      I guess it’s a good thing the interviewer asked this question, and that the younger you answered honestly!

  23. Jules*

    I interviewed at an addiction recovery non-profit for a position that a friend had just left, and for which I was qualified. Friend recommended me to his boss. I was greeted with “I’m really only interviewing you because [friend] recommended you.” He proceeded to eat a banana during the interview and got up a couple of times to talk to people in the hallway. Then he brought in two people who were on the team, one of whom asked me no questions. The other one asked me if I was in recovery from addiction and was flabbergasted when I said I was not and asked how I was supposed to do this job if I didn’t have personal experience with addiction. Being in recovery was not a job requirement. I did not get the job, but I think I dodged a bullet.

    1. PhyllisB*

      Actually, being in recovery usually IS a job requirement for this type of work.
      My daughter works in this field and all three places she worked not only was it requirement, but you had to have been sober for a certain period of time. (I think a year but not sure.)
      Having said that, this should be mentioned when advertising. At the very least your friend should have known this before referring you.

        1. Jules*

          This was for a communications coordinator type role, and my friend who had previously been in the role was also not in recovery. It was not listed anywhere in the job description.

  24. Cookies for Breakfast*

    #12, apologies to your past self – I laughed out loud. It’s the way you phrased the “absolute kicker” sentence. I wasn’t expecting the twist at all!

    I had a #2 moment many years ago, interviewing for a content writing internship as a recent graduate. The employer was a posh daycare / after-school activity provider for children in a very affluent neighbourhood. Enter me, a clueless 20-something immigrant, nowhere near posh or fancy, and with no interest in kids whatsoever. That’s something I have zero poker face about: with me, any conversation about kids goes down like a collection of essays on how to watch paint dry. On top of that, I told the interviewer that I was applying for other internships, and really hoping to hear back about one at a literary agency. I don’t know why on earth I thought I’d fit in at a place that’s packed with kids every day. But guess what? I didn’t get the internship, and, very predictably, the literary agency rejected me too.

      1. !!!*

        Exactly what I was wondering! I laughed so hard at the “#2 moment” I still haven’t managed to get past it to read the rest of the comment.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Haha, ok, I see now what that sounds like! English is not my first language and I phrase things weirdly all the time without realising, but hey, guess I wrote something that made people laugh today :D

    1. Cardboard Marmalade*

      This is the sort of thing I would never think of, and I would love to live in your brain for day.

  25. tiny*

    I once had an interview that was something like 12 half-hour interviews in one business day (there were bathroom breaks, though, I think?), and I absolutely did not remember my own name by the end of it

  26. Timekeeper*

    11, it totally made sense to me right away — I’m constantly doing 60-minute math. Like if it’s 5:17 and dinner’s at 6, how many minutes are there left and if I take a 20 min shower, how many will I have after that?

    If I’m only 43 minutes into this meeting, when do I get to escape? 17 min!

    So 43 is like — well of course!

    1. Making Change*

      Thank you. :) My mind went totally blank and I thought “there’s 60 seconds in a minute, so there’s 60 cents in a dollar” and yeah, that was not right at all.

    2. allathian*

      This time I definitely learned something new. I guess the etymology of the word “cent” is well enough fixed in my mind for me not to be misled (centum is 100 in Latin).

    1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

      YES. My chocolate cravings have been out of control lately, probably because Stress. Give me an excuse to make brownies!!

      1. Gracie*

        I made brownies today for a Halloween bakeoff tomorrow – the BBC Good Food vegan cookies’n’cream brownies, with Oreos. They go down so well at every baking event, even with non-vegans. If you’ve got a reasonably well-stocked pantry, the only things you might have to buy is the white wine vinegar, the coconut yoghurt and the Oreos

        (I’m not vegan either, but it’s a super quick and easy recipe, and way more inclusive for my disproportionately vegan office)

    2. Brownies*

      It’s a secret recipe and was gifted to my spouse and me upon the occasion of our wedding, so I think I would face a backlash if I shared it. Sorry!

  27. Rose*

    #3 (carnival yelling) and similar stories always really bother me.

    Because girl you didn’t mess up that interview. You figured out half way through that that job was a bad fit for you! Lord of people are not going to be comfortable yelling out to strangers all day. That’s more than fine! Avoid jobs that require it.

  28. hardly_lovelace*

    I long to hear more about the job interview from #7. And from anyone who gets annoyed to the point of half-incoherence from the company of boring coworkers. There can’t be only two of us? Plug the catharsis straight into my veins!

    1. Bored and irritated*

      That was me!

      The interview was a lateral move in a large organisation in which some teams were notorious for not doing much. They got away with it by being vague about things and letting others pick up the slack. I detected early on in the interview from the lack of rapport and specificity that this was such a team.

      I’m autistic so vagueness really bothers me: it’s such hard work trying to catch the moments of specificity – such as the answer to a question you’ve just asked – in a stream of random information. I find it disrespectful as well – why would you invite me for an interview and not have clear answers to predictable questions about the job? Why would you make no attempt to build rapport? That’s such a waste of busy people’s time.

      You can either let these things get to you or tune them out. On this occasion it seems I chose both approaches at once.

      Solidarity to the bored, irritated and incoherent among us

  29. Cee S*

    On #5 and #14: What you expose to on a regular basis will sit in your unconscious mind. On a serious note, I spoke to some moms who returned to work from taking care of children/families had quite an adjustment on speaking with colleagues professionally.

  30. New Yorker at heart*

    I once had a job interview at a tv network. I was 22 and had a similar position with a different unit but this would be a step up. The position was for a newly created assistant role for a female tv news producer, a seasoned vet from a competing network. After doing my due diligence and asking around for tips on my approach and advice on how to work with her, men and women in the business described her as a bitch and very tough many times over. During the interview, I tried to be as upbeat as I could and inadvertently blurted out “I heard you were a bitch to work with but I’m sure we’ll get along just fine!” Cringe. Needless to say, I wasn’t hired. She didn’t last very long as the assessment of her was spot on and not a good fit for the company culture.

  31. nonprofit llama groomer*

    I cackled at duck face (#9) and then read the math (#11) and could not stop laughing.

    OMG, she did the whole interview with a duck face!

    I could so see myself doing something like the math person. Except I didn’t get an A in calculus.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > OMG, she did the whole interview with a duck face!

      I can picture it playing out like this:

      – “What’s your biggest weakness?”
      – “Well, if I make a mistake I can be quite persistent in doubling down on it to save face rather than admit I screwed up.”
      – “Do you have an example of that situation?”
      – “Yeah, there was this time when a customer had placed an order and…..” (all delivered still with the duck face!)

      1. 1LFTW*

        *inner monologue* “Just need to stay in character for the rest of the interview… they’ll never know this isn’t my regular face!”

  32. Cosmic Cetacean*

    This is secondhand but: a few years after graduating high school, my then-boyfriend asked me to come with him to a video game industry job fair. He had had only one job in the industry, a few years prior, as a playtester. When we arrived at the convention center, he ignored every other company and went straight to the line for a major games publisher. They were so well known, the line stretched down a flight of stairs and down onto the sidewalk. I waited with him for HOURS in that line, and when we got to the front, the guy at the table asked him what kind of industry experience he had. BF proceeded to take an Xbox disc out of his coat pocket, handed it to the guy and said, with the most sincere confidence, “I don’t have a resume, but if you look at the credits of this game, my name is in there.”
    I was so mortified, I don’t remember the rest of their conversation, but needless to say it was brief and he was not offered an interview.

    1. Anon for this one*

      At my (now ex) company a position opened up in their tech division for an automation QA engineer. This was a position needing a lot of experience in QA, test automation, strategy, etc. Programming and scripting, essentially software engineer with testing focus.

      A data entry operator applied (who worked in my location and that’s how I heard about it) who had no skills or experience in programming or anything related, on the grounds that “testing is basically what I do now”. He was referring to when changes occasionally were made to the data entry system and he was asked to operate the system with the new changes in place and feed back any issues etc to the developers.

      I wish I had the confidence of this guy! (Unsurprisingly he wasn’t moved forward in the process… and he couldn’t understand why, because he had “basically the perfect background”!)

      1. LJ*

        Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. He could legitimately not know all the skills that are required of that position

  33. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    I once answered “what are your weaknesses” with “I’m a little arrogant.” I got the job. Good job, too.

    1. Rose*

      People want an honest answer! Everyone I interview is going to have a weakness. At least you know yours.

    2. Random Dice*

      I am deeply honest, to a fault. Not that that’s what I’d say, no, I’d ask how many faults they wanted me to list, and my best estimate of how that might impact them.

      At least that’s my inclination. I’ve learned not to actually do that.

  34. Happy*

    Oh my god, Math (#11) I find so relatable!

    Just yesterday I was playing a game with a time component, where I miscalculated our score because I assumed 100 minutes per hour.

    I have a master’s degree in math.

    1. allathian*

      Oh dear.

      Reminds me of a horrible working hours logger I used to have to work with, it required logging hours in 6-minute increments (0.1 of an hour). We also had an electronic sign in/sign out system at every entrance. We’d get the log with time stamps every month, and it took me at least an hour every month to do the conversions. At first I did them manually, then I wrote a conversion table, and finally I spent a weekend brushing up on my Excel skills and wrote a macro. No idea how I did it, and I couldn’t do it now, but it worked. I ended up storing the file on my team’s shared drive, and the following week my boss told everyone on our team to use it.

      Thankfully, not long after we got a much better and more modern system.

  35. Cannibal Queen*

    #5, I thought you demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to go above and beyond!

  36. Erin*

    LOL #7 I can’t believe I didn’t write that! 10000% sounds like something that I would get myself into, and just delete/forget/idk man!

  37. S*

    No 16, I’ve had some interviews where I think the other person panicked and hung up, like as soon as I started asking the skill-related questions there’s a connections issue and they disappear. Theres frequently issues connecting (did they forget the time, technical issues, who knows) but there’s been a few where we did start having the conversation and then they just bounced. Or lost connection, IDK so i put it in the system as failure to connect, try to reschedule
    Painful for everyone involved but i try to always be nice

  38. Craig*

    Honestly, #8 is fair enough. How do you answer that question when you don’t know anything about the other candidates?

  39. Generic Name*

    #1 Yeah, this event is problematic on so many levels. If company leadership REALLY wants to do something hunting adjacent, they could organize a skeet shoot outing, and you know, let women attend. My mom’s small family owned company did that one year for a team building (the owner called it the “Nimrod Tournament” ha). My mother, who up until that point had never held a gun, managed to shoot down a respectable number of clay pigeons.

  40. dackquiri*

    #9 absolutely killed me. Such great “Tim Robinson insisting the door goes both ways” energy.

  41. Mama Llama*

    #5 – Running joke at my high school was the female athlete at an awards banquet who tried to say “Section Six” and ended up saying “sex and whips.”

  42. megan*

    I did something like #8 once.

    They asked why I was the best person for the job and I honest to goodness replied. “Well, I can’t say I’m the best since I don’t know the other people who applied and that you’re interviewing…” and honestly can’t tell you what I said after because my internal voice was screaming at me, lol.

  43. Zeus*

    #11 (the maths) is easier to do than you’d think – I once had a customer with a total that was $11.45 (for instance) and I confidently told them “That’s quarter to twelve!”

    It was mid-afternoon.

Comments are closed.