Some interviews can be extremely cringy and frustrating for hiring managers. They ideally want enthusiastic and determined candidates to walk into their office with confidence and nail the interview. Unfortunately, there are times that they have to deal with candidates that ... really have no clue why and what questions they're answering.
In this article, hiring managers share the worst responses they received in an interview.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
Only the professional knows best
“There was an interview that happened recently at my workplace. The interviewer asked the interviewee to elaborate on a part of his resume, to which the interviewee replied, ‘My resume was written by a professional, and I’m not actually sure what he means by that part.’
The truth will not set you free
“My fiancé is a recruiter for bank tellers. She gets lots of people who don’t quite understand the purpose of interviews. She had one that went like this:
Her: Why did you leave your last job?
Applicant: I hated that place and the customers were really terrible.
Her: Okay… Did you give your employer a notice before leaving?
A: Nah, I just stopped going. I really hated it there.
Her: So what makes you think you’d be a good fit for (Company)?
A: I guess I live pretty close by…
The interview ended shortly after that obviously.
Please don’t talk bad about ANYBODY during an interview. Not a good look.”
Understanding basic English for this position
“I helped interview some people once for a government job at an international center in rural Japan. This was a job where foreigners who didn’t speak Japanese would occasionally come in and talk to staff, so even though the staff didn’t have to be perfect at English, they had to at least be able to understand the basics.
In the interviews, my boss had me start out by asking the participants simple questions like ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘How are you feeling today?’ to see how they would react. The point wasn’t to test their ability but just to make sure they would be able to handle an unexpected situation where a foreigner was speaking to them in English. And it was horrible. The first guy who came in just stared at the floor for about two minutes without saying anything. One girl started to actually cry a little bit. Of course since this was the beginning of the interview it threw them off for the rest of it as well. I felt like a total jerk but on the other hand if you cry when someone speaks English to you you’re probably not the best pick for the job.”
Always on time
“So a guy turns up 20 minutes late for the interview. No ringing to let us know he was running late, no apology when he eventually turned up and no reason given. So we get through the interview and eventually ask, ‘what qualities do have that makes you think you are suited to this job?’
His reply: I’m always on time.”
Yes, do judge THIS book by its cover
“I used to manage a water park at a resort. One of the maintenance guys asked if I could interview his son for a lifeguard position, so I said sure. I delegated the task to one of my newly minted supervisors as a training exercise (she’s never interviewed someone before) while I sat in and watched.
Anyway, kid comes in barely on time and I kid you not, he’s wearing a white tank top, basketball shorts and socks with flip flops. Now, I wasn’t expecting a suit and tie, but come on. She (supervisor) looks at me wide-eyed but I motion her to continue the interview so as to not waste the opportunity.
The kid expectedly bombs, and when it’s over I ask the supervisor to leave. I don’t believe in mincing words or giving false hope so I tell him point blank, ‘Aside from the interview itself, why do you think we should hire you when you come in wearing all this, clearly indicating you don’t respect us enough to even try?’
His response: ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover, bro.'”
Not that kind of relationship building!
“Asked an interviewee to tell me about a time they’d built relationships with colleagues, departments, suppliers etc. She proceeded to tell me how she’d started having an affair with a work colleague. Not quite the answer I was expecting.”
Extremely unfit for the position
“‘Tell me about your work experience?’
‘Hey, uh, how far back do you go for felonies?’
‘We search your entire criminal history but obviously the same crime committed yesterday weighs more heavily than one committed 20 years ago with nothing since. You actually marked that you don’t have any criminal history, however. Is that wrong?’
Long story short, he had been arrested A LOT. Like three times for public intoxication in the last MONTH. Felony substance charges in the last year. Theft $50,000+ in the past two years. Burglary, theft, theft, theft.
He was applying to install security systems. You have to have a certain level of credibility, much less to meet licensing requirements.”
A foolish answer for a teaching position
“I was interviewing a group of graduate students for a teaching position at my university. One of the questions I asked dealt with gender inclusion (this was for an engineering class). Specifically, the question was what immediate changes could be made to the class in order to make it more inclusive for women, who often feel like the odd ones out in the male-dominated field.
Her response was to use pink whiteboard markers.
She didn’t get the job.”
Nope, nope, nope, out you go!
“A co-worker told me about a guy they interviewed once who seemed perfect for the role… until:
Co-worker: ‘So, we’re a small team and help each other with whatever needs doing. Sometimes includes handling different equipment across sections, sometimes we just need an extra hand to wipe the benches and sweep. Do you have any issues with expanding your role and assisting with a variety of tasks?’
Guy: ‘Of course not, I’m happy to help out wherever I’m needed, and any chance to do something new is a chance to learn and gain skills. I’ll certainly assist in any task… except cleaning of course; that’s women’s work.’
To emphasize, my co-worker and the other person doing the interview were both women, and this wasn’t the guy’s bad attempt at humour, he was 100% serious in his answer. He did not get the job.”
This fish trade in Fiji
“Interviewing for a free clinic for homeless people. We asked about their experiences with the homeless. This person told us a story of the time their family vacationed on a yacht in Fiji and then met a fisherman who traded them his entire day’s catch for a handful of M&Ms. I was flabbergasted — you couldn’t possibly be more out of touch. That fisherman probably wasn’t even homeless. And also, why didn’t they just give him their M&Ms without taking his hard-earned fish? Or pay him for the fish…? Needless to say they did not get the job.”
Are we talking sports here?
“Interviewing a nervous person for their first job. The question is: ‘What role do you typically play on a team?’
Me: (this is an interesting response) ‘Can you tell me more about that?’
Candidate: ‘I hate sports and don’t want to have to touch the ball.’
It was definitely a memorable answer.”
Apparently the candidate is two separate entities
“A few years ago we put out an application for a senior software developer. The description was rather broad; we had a variety of projects we could stick them on, but needed a senior level person that could jump in relatively quickly.
In comes this lady, let’s name her Susan, with an excellent resume. Ten years of development experience, lead-level previous position, listed proficiencies in all the languages we wanted, even obscure ones.
So we bring her for an interview, one of those public sector committee ones with preset questions, and she’s acing it: talks a big game, excitedly describes her past projects and their impact, seems all around pretty personable. Then we deviate a bit and start asking basic coding questions and she replies with a line I will never forget as long as I shall live:
‘Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t really do coding, I have my code-man for that.’
Five seconds of stunned silence.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘My code-man, (let’s call him Bob), if something needs doing, I pass it off to him and it’s just done. He’s really good.’
When we inquired if we could maybe interview ‘the code-man’ instead, she got really flustered and basically wound the interview down. It’s like we committed a great offense by implying the two of them were separate entities. To this day we don’t really know what the deal there was, exactly.”
Trying to impress the interviewer with his fighting skills
“Asked a question about conflict resolution. This very small person with a Napoleon complex responded with two physical altercation stories he had at work. Both of which he initiated. He beat them up though and walked out.
The thing that got me was he was chuckling through each story, like I was supposed to be impressed with his fighting skills.”
Horrible customer service skills
“I was interviewing someone for a customer service position. ‘Tell me about a time you had to go out of your way to help a customer,’ I asked her. She gave me a five minute long answer about how she made sure that the customer respected her and how valuable her time was and that ‘sometimes you just have to put them in their place. They ask you all kinds of questions but they just need to think and then they’d know the answer. So I tell them to think for themselves and then they get it.’
She didn’t get a call back.”
A fast delivery driver
“I did interviews for a delivery company, (think UPS but regional). I asked a guy what qualities he possessed that could be an asset to the company. The most common answer is usually being a hard worker. BUT, kudos to this guy for informing me that his dad raced dirt track cars, and he driven them a couple of times, so he was excellent at driving fast. He then asked me if a pending DUI would be a problem. Thanks, buddy.”
The candidate that shares way too much information
“I was interviewing people to replace me as assistant manager of a TEEN GIRL clothing store, as I had stepped down and moved on to a different job. I stayed on as a temporary manager for two years afterwards only to help train new employees and to jump in when they were short or had an emergency. First impression, older woman with way too much makeup on and a pantsuit.
Question: How do you learn about fashion trends?
Answer: My Mom. She’s 71, and so fashionable. She sells Mary Kay so I always get to see the new Mary Kay magazines with the fashion trends before others do.
Question: Tell me why you are interested in management.
Answer: Well, at the yogurt place I work at, I’m the oldest employee there so everyone asks me what to do there and I tell them. It makes my manager a little tense because she’s the boss, but I can’t help it if they ask me!
Obviously I did not hire her, for a variety of reasons, not just these answers. The weird part is I saw her working at a little corner shop close to my home not too long afterwards. She wasn’t wearing any makeup and was in normal clothes. She almost looked like a different person, much younger looking without all of the makeup and pantsuit. She’s a very nice woman, but she overshares.”
Three strike, and the fourth is a sealed deal
“I was a manager in a restaurant chain and did the hiring for a couple of years. I’m in my 20s and typically would interview people around my same age or younger, but on one occasion I interviewed a woman who was in her late 50s. She kept undermining me throughout the conversation with ‘you’re probably too young to remember this-‘ and ‘you’re about the same age as my daughter!’ and ‘when I was your age…’ sort of additions to her responses. That was her first strike.
As the interview progressed, she mentioned she had been a GM for a popular fast-food chain for 15 years, and I inquired how she felt about that experience. She started trashing the company, saying they let her go and never appreciated her work, calling the higher-ups all sorts of names. Second strike.
Suddenly, and don’t ask me why, she started quoting the film House Bunny (a movie about a former Playboy bunny who gets accepted into a sorority) and imitating Anna Farris’ lines in the film in the absolute WEIRDEST voice possible. Third strike.
As I’m beginning to wrap up the interview and dismiss her, she starts going on about how terrible her previous employer was for letting her go, and out of nowhere, started sobbing. Hysterically sobbing. Emotional-breakdown-wailing. If the deal hadn’t been sealed before then, it certainly was after that point.”
Incapable of being a sales associate
“I interviewed someone for a sales associate position. I asked them why they wanted to work for us, and she replied that the sales associates at the other location were too whiny for her and that she just wanted the discount on clothes. She also said that she wanted to leave her other work without notice because she hates them so much over there. There were tons of other answers that were terrible, but those two stood out to me.
There was someone else who was stealing (we can’t confront them in the store. We have to wait until they leave and then call security.) She was very open about it. On her way out the door, she handed me a resume with all of her information on it. I’m not sure why she would do that when it was clear that I had seen her steal, but she was banned from store/mall after that.”
Did the issue involve arts and crafts?
“I was interviewing a candidate with a few co-workers, he was fresh out of college and this was for a mechanical engineering position. Asked him to explain a time he had to troubleshoot an issue and how he fixed it.
He starts telling us about a time that the front wheel on his car was squeaking and how he was going to figure out what was wrong. He gets about 2 minutes into describing his process, when I kid you not, he says, ‘never mind, you wouldn’t understand the issue,’ to a room full of engineers.”
Color code and page speed logic
“I was once interviewing for a junior-level web designer. An applicant arrived for his interview and I immediately felt bad because he was much older than I was (probably in his 50s and I was in my 20s), but applying for basically an entry-level position.
He was fine during most of the interview, seemed to mostly know what he was talking about. Then I asked him about what some of his strategies were for improving page load speed.
He replied, ‘Well, the thing is, if you look at how hex color-codes work, black is free to send over the internet.’
I stopped him, ‘Black is free? What do you mean?’
‘Well, the color black is #000000 and the codes go all the way up to #FFFFFF. Zero basically means ‘off’ so you send fewer bytes for that. So to make a page faster, you make more things black.’
‘… Huh… But what if I want to use purple?’
‘Well, that’s easy, if you want to use purple but make the page a little faster, we can just use a darker purple until the page is faster.’
I ended the interview pretty quick after that. I felt embarrassed for him.”
The most cringy interview
I interviewed a guy in his 40s, whose mom drove him to the interview and insisted on sitting in on the interview. That was red flag number one.
But when I asked what he would provide in terms of helping our customers he said, “well I know more than they do so as long as they recognize that, I can help them.” I work at a store that supplies educators and schools. This guy (who had only ever worked driving a van) believed he knew more than teachers, principals and counselors.
Also he didn’t look at me once in the interview. I had a window behind me and he just stared at his own reflection the entire time. And no, he was not autistic.