Going for a job interview can be hard and stressful. It feels like they always pull some crazy questions out of thin air that knock you off your toes. Sometimes, your responses can be grounds for not even getting the job right there on the spot. Here are the best stories from the Quora community of interview questions that got them disqualified from the job.
Comments have been edited for clarity. The source can be found the end of the article.
Yes. But it wasnt my fault.
Theres a problem when it comes to hiring teachers in Illinois. I dont know if its like this anywhere else.
In order to teach a certain subject, you have to have a certain certification in that subject. It gets complicated, but I have whats called a Type 09 English certification, which means I can teach English to students in grades 612.
I am not, however, certified to teach reading. Thats a different certification completely.
Twice Ive applied for positions that were labeled as English teacher, I got to the interview, and halfway through, they ask me about my Reading certification. I tell them I dont have it, and like that, Im not qualified for the position.
- – They were asking for an English teacher, not a Reading teacher, and
- – They had my resume and credentials ahead of time and could have seen that for themselves.
If I were not such a nice guy, Id get mad about my time that they wasted.
Three years ago I was looking for my first job as a full time employee. I was looking for working in a private equity fund and got to the final interview in two major funds in Brazil.
I had it clear to me which one was my first choice (let’s say fund A). But if it didn’t work, I would accept the second one (fund B), it was also a great place to start my career.
So, I was first invited to the final round in fund B. The interview was good, I was prepared for the answers and I think the interviewer was approving me. But, as the interview was ending the man asked me if I was interviewing somewhere else and I told him that I was also in funds A process.
So far so good, the man started to say how good fund A was and that it would be a great opportunity for me to work there to.
But, at the very end, the man just asked: and, what would you do if fund A calls you right now saying they want to hire you?
And my answer was of course, I would accept it. Sh**! He got me! Now the guy knew exactly what was my first option.
Well, naturally fund B didn’t make an offer, but after some weeks I got funds A job, and I could forgive myself for being way too honest…
Julio Cesar Samorano Filho
I was a shoo-in.
This position was easy…I was over-qualified so I could walk away with it. I had not mentioned my PhD, so I wasn’t a threat to anyone.
It was at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (currently, the Safari Park, for reasons that remain obscure). Back then, the park was contracting with an outside agency that provided animal handlers to perform the animal shows, and publicly handle the animals. I was interviewing for an animal handler position.
I was aware of this when I got called for an interview. I understood that my interviewers were NOT scientists. (This is important, later).
I dressed carefully, trying to look like the child of Joan Embry and Steve Irwin. I call it Safari Formal. I was ushered into a room with five folks who were dressed similarly. (Score!)
They asked several questions. I answered easily.
I could tell I had this in the bag. (My thought: I will be giving animal shows at the San Diego Wild Animal Park very soon!)
Then.. Oh God.
He asked: Can you give an example of negative reinforcement?
My eyebrow went up.
Most people don’t know there’s a difference between negative reinforcement and punishment… but I’m interviewing at THE WILD ANIMAL PARK, so I gotta assume that this guy knows his stuff, and this is a trick question.
I answered: Well, yes. But do you mean punishment or negative reinforcement?
He looked puzzled so I quickly explained: there’s a huge difference between punishment and negative reinforcement.
I knew I was in deep water because I could see that he seriously did not know the difference.
I patiently explained… punishment is used to extinguish a behavior, it’s a stimulus that’s presented after the animal performs the undesirable behavior, to reduce performance. A negative reinforcer is taken away when the animal performs the desired behavior. A negative reinforcer will increase performance of the desired behavior. It’s a fine distinction, as both have negative connotations.
I did not get the job.
Probably this: When I was 14 or 15, I really wanted a job with the Parks and Rec District. Because I was not age 16, I had to jump through some additional hoops. Eventually, I was offered an interview for a position as some kind of summer camp worker for kids from toddlers to grade 3 or something.
The question was of the nature If a 3 year old was misbehaving, how would you handle it?
I was 14. I knew nothing about life and gave the dumbest possible answer.
Me: I would talk with the kid.
Them: You would talk with the kid? You cant reason with a toddler. What would you tell them?
Me: That they have to behave in a certain way because in life there are rules and laws.
The woman on the panel looked horrified.
I am positive that answer disqualified me. Knowing what I know now, I would have answered, I would calmly tell the kid to stop misbehaving. If that didnt work, then I would get an adult to assist.
I still cringe thinking about it.
Yes, I would steal something, if I had to.
Well, technically this was on a pre-screening survey to weed out, you know, thieves and such. I got weeded out.
The survey was full of a bunch of questions like, would you ever steal from the company? Is it ever appropriate to come in late? Etc.
I was 16 at the time and going through this philosophical phase in my life where I was beginning to realize that the world was not black and white. So, in other words, my answer to that question in my mind was Yes, if someone in my family was dying and the only way to save them was to steal from your company, then yes I would steal, because there are no absolute truths oh and by the way the difference between absolute and relativistic morality is [insert more nonsense here].
I thought this answer would be impressive to them (hey this guy is a real thinker), but it turns out, you’re just supposed to answer no when a company asks if you’d ever steal from them…
I still cringe when I remember this.
Interviewer: Well, youre definitely qualified for the position and from the discussion we had, youre the right person what our company is looking for. One last question, whats your VISA Status?
Me: *here it goes* Im currently on my F-1 Status; and you may need to sponsor me for H1-B.
I should have been disqualified before the interview even started, except the recruiter didn’t bother to actually read my rsum.
My second job ended with the company going bankrupt and I was close to bankruptcy myself as I searched for employment.
My rsum had been on various job boards and out of the blue a company called me. Would I mind working in San Francisco? No problem. Am I comfortable developing on AIX? Sure. Do I care that the company develops financial software? Not an issue. Then came the boilerplate technical screening. It was fairly obvious the recruiter was reading off of a list, so I tried to keep the answers simple and direct. Burned through that with nary a problem.
This was a long phone call, and about an hour in the recruiter said with forced nonchalance, Oh, I see you list casual attire on your rsum as a requirement. Well, we wear suits here.
But don’t worry! We do all sorts of wacky things in the office, like squirt gun fights and picnics. We have fun here.
And before I could censor myself, I said, Yeah, right.
Did things go badly from there and how. There was a lot of shouting, some boasting about how I should feel honored that they called, and general negativity about wasting her time. No apologies for wasting my time, of course.
Didn’t just burn a bridge there, but dynamited it and afterwards sprayed the area with a mixture or thermite and plutonium to make sure it was never built again.
If nothing else works, I would give a bribe!!!
I was being interviewed for Tata Motors during Campus Placements at IIM Indore. Now those familiar with their process would know that they have two panels of interviewers – a Good cop and a Bad cop Panel. Fortunately (or perhaps, Unfortunately), I had my first round with the good cops. They were very sweet, praising me at every minor achievement, encouraging me to blurt out everything.
Surprisingly, I was the only one to clear the good cop round and one of my friends cleared the Bad cop one. Now we had to switch panels. The moment I entered the room, I knew I was screwed. There was this silence in the air with 2 angry looking men staring at me enter. Upon sitting, this is roughly how it went:
Int: (Looking at the last line of my CV) So you compose poetry?
Me: (Completely taken aback) Yes, I do, sometimes, when I am really sad.
Int: So lets hear one of your poems.
Me: (Stuttering now) Well, I usually send all my poems to my girlfriend (now my wife) so I dont remember any. I can recite one of Robert Frosts or someone similar.
Int: Nope. We need to hear your poem. Make it happen.
Me: I might have the last one on the sent items of my messages but my cell is switched off right now.
Int: We dont mind waiting.
An awkward silence ensues while I switch on my phone and it takes like forever to come on. I find one of my mediocre compositions and recite it to an expressionless audience. I am literally sweating now.
Then they go on and on grilling me on each word and syllable on my CV. Finally they come up with the bazooka:
Int: So lets assume you are the Sales Head of Tata Motors and you report directly to Ratan Tata (Legendary CEO). You have got a requirement from Maharashtra police to supply all their vehicles but the commissioner is demanding a bribe from you. What would you do?
Me: I would try and convince him on the benefits of Tata vehicles and how the police dept would have a low maintenance, cost beneficial vehicle at their disposal.
Int: Hes not interested in all that. All he wants is to line his own pockets.
Me: *Another way out*
Int: *He wants nothing but a bribe*
This goes on for 15 mins where I give different reasons and he shoots each one down with the same response. In the end one of them gets frustrated and says:
Int: All I want to know is that Is Mihir Badiani the sort of person who would give a bribe.
Me: If nothing else works, I would give a bribe!
Int: Thank you, I think we have heard what we wanted to.
And my friend got the job.
I was once interviewing for a nurse manager position. The interviewing manager had an obvious litmus test for her ideal candidate.
When is it appropriate to place a patient into restraints? She asked.
I think that restraints should be used as a last resort, I answered. It was a safe answer I assumed.
Yes, but I want to know at what place you think last resort begins? She queried.
I would say that last resort would be when I felt that the safety of the staff was in jeopardy, I answered.
She stood up, started walking toward the door and said, We are done here. Thank you for your time.
She opened the door and waited dismissively for me to exit. Knowing that I had just blown the interview I stopped short of the door and said, What was the right answer?
To protect the patient, she said.
I believe in protecting the patient, I said. I just hold my staffs protection in higher regard than the patient.
That’s not what you are paid to do, she countered. And that’s why you won’t be working for me.
She had a point.
My exact words were No, I’m not signing that corporate fascist, piece of sh**, document. Sorry, fu** You. as I walked out of the door.
I’m a 30-year Field Service Engineer and had applied to Sears for a Service Technician position.
I filled out their application, I went to the first interview talked a bit about my experiences in the field and was called back for a second interview where they did a paper test of my knowledge… which I aced.
Third interview and we talked about management, scheduling, and Customer Service Theory practices for a crew of 6, more testing and a background check which was all good.
The out of town Corporate hiring manager calls and says I’m one of two candidates and he’ll be in the area next week to review everything and make a decision.
A week later he calls to ask me to come in one final time so they can present their offer and finalize the paperwork.
In that final paperwork there must have been 30 sheets of paper which I had to review, agree with an initial or sign… During this process the guy seemed a bit agitated and asked me three times to hurry up a bit as there was another meeting he needed to get to. I explained that I was a bit particular and though that might seem time consuming, it was also one of the traits which made me a great diagnostician (meanwhile starting to pay REALLY close attention to everything I’d signed and was preparing to sign).
Then I got to the very last sheet…
It was a 5-year, 500 mile non-compete agreement, which as written meant that if this position didnt work out for ANY reason I couldn’t do any service work within 500 miles of any Sears Service location for 5 years…
I LOOKED at him and promptly scratched out the 500 miles and replaced it with 50 miles. Then I LOOKED at him again and scratched out the 5 years and replaced it with one year, initialed both edits, and handed it to him for him to sign acknowledging the edits. He declined, and said There is Absolutely no choice here and you just have to sign it as it’s printed.… um… Nope.
The heck there’s no choice here.
Ain’t happening bud!
I grabbed the entire stack of paperwork from under his hand, tore it in half (~8 sheets at a time), tore it in half again, handed the whole mess back to him and I said…
So that’s why you were pushing me so hard to just sign it all without reading it!
Then I said…
One word applies here: Sh**weasles
I once interviewed on site for a Lead Software Engineer position in NYC. Now mind you, I had 2 rounds of telephonic interviews before the on site and they were pursuing me hard. It really was a great mutual match. I breezed through the rounds with the CTO, developers, chief architect and so on. Then was the interview with the Human Resources.
She asks a bunch of common questions, then the million dollar question….what is your salary requirement? I tell her and she then tells me firmly …well this position pays about $20,000 – $30,000 less than that. Now, I knew that their range was very low and just not competitive at all given the responsibilities of the job, the company and the fact they were based in NYC.
So I knew I just couldnt take the job at this point. “So then she asks me, well what is your current salary?” I reply that, I dont give out that information. So then she says asks again, let me know your salary, it will help us determine what salary would be fair for you. Ha! bullsh**!… look at my skill set, years of experience, and the market to determine my salary and then make me a fair offer… I said in my mind.
What I DID reply was that: “It may help you to know my salary but revealing my current salary to you does not help me.” That was the end of the interview. I had nothing to lose by being honest… there was no way in heck they were going to offer me a fair salary anyway.
Yes, this happened to me. I was doing an interview that was very non formal, as rather than sitting in an office being questioned, the person interviewing me was walking through the shop after hours and showing me where I would work if I got hired.
Now, I do not know for a fact that my comments were the reason why I was disqualified from getting the position, but I understood from the course of the interview that my qualifications were exactly what they were looking for, and that I had the best shot at getting the job among all the people who had applied.
What was my mistake? I said something derogatory about my previous employer. Not just one thing, but several things. All of them were true, but fact is in the ear of the beholder. I didnt think nothing of it at the time, but when they didnt call me back, and all my phone inquiries were met with a cold, disinterested reply (you can usually tell when an employer is not going to hire you by their tone of voice) I decided to give up and try elsewhere.
A few years later, I noticed the place went out of business. So it was probably in my best interests I didnt get a job there, because I would have been out on my ass a few years later. The job I did get elsewhere suited me fine, and was at a place I could excel.
Interviewer: What do you know about this post?
Me: blah blah blah (Told everything that I knew)
Interviewer: (Seeing my application) You dont even know English properly. The grammar is very bad.
Me: (Stayed silent but I thought of replying like I cant help if the grammar used in your website is so bad because I directly copied it from your website.)
Here comes the killer question
Interviewer: When did this company start?
Me: (I dont know the answer to this question but tried to play safe) I am not sure but I remember seeing on Internet that this company started 10 years back.
Interviewer: (Shocked face) It actually started just 1 year back.
Now, zero, was my chance of getting selected in the interview.
Happened to me twice, I was at one of the largest government organisations in Dubai and role was related to Corporate Governance. THEY found me on linkedin and offered me a position considering my profile.
So when the interview started the lady asked me what i have been doing recently and I told her that I’ve been studying for a professional accounting qualification, and that was it! She said we are not looking for someone who is a professionally qualified accountant and it’s very less likely that I will be staying for long as I would be more interested in accounting positions.
After spending 15 minutes explaining to her that how I have thoroughly studied Corporate Governance during my studies and convincing her that I really want to work for the firm, I gave up!
The second time I was at one the big four accounting firms and the interview was going very fine, I was perfectly fit for the position. They asked me what I did during the one month internship (previous role), and I told them that it was only a month so I mentioned a few tasks and then said Verification of expenses,” The person interviewing me just felt like something was not right and he told the director Well I dont have further questions for him, That’s how the interview ended.
I was a senior in college, and I passed the first round of interviews (done on campus). I was invited to their office and was being interviewed by the hiring manager. After the standard tell me about yourself line of queries, I was asked a case interview question: How many golf balls can fit into a 747?
I did not know that it was a case interview question (this was my first professional interview) and I thought she was joking.
Me: I dunno, a million?
Her: How did you come up with that answer?
Her: I see. Have a nice day.
After 3 long interviews, I had the feeling this non-profit didn’t know what they wanted and probably wasn’t going to pay enough for what they were requiring (even in the nonprofit world). Fortunately, I wasn’t desperate for a job – just looking for a change. So when they finally asked me about “salary range I replied with a number I felt sure would be too high. The chill in the room was immediate.
I was interviewing in a major company and went through the first technical phase like a dream. Techies were happy and demanded to make the next, CEO interview, as soon as possible.
I made a little search about the firm before and found out they have a funny rule that one must move within a ten minutes from the office area to work there. On the other hand, a company compensates part of the rent. This made me suspicious of late night calls and overwork culture.
So, I asked CEO what is the typical work time there. CEO, who was younger than me, by the way, immediately became concerned and said they need serious people who dont question priorities the firm’s sets for them. I was asked to leave immediately. While unpleasant at first, giving the situation second thought I understood that I do not want to work for a company who does not respect the private life of the employees as well.
Why do you want to quit your current job and join us?
Well, I decided to be honest in this interview, considering the company size is not large at all, with around 10 people of the whole company. Sooner or later the real reason will get out from unknown sources, so might as well be honest now or never.
“Because my current job doesnt give me sufficient employee benefits.”
Needless to say, Im not hired.