Sometimes they are almost unnoticeable and sometimes they glare like the sun, but all too often we miss or ignore warning signs. These poor people conducting interviews are no different.
We found these crazy stories by hiring managers that saw the warning signs, but, for whatever reason, chose to ignore those signs. Occasionally, ignoring them works out. Most of the time, it ends in total disaster.
She Didn’t Understand Clocks
“I actually hired someone who was late for the interview. Her apology was totally reasonable and I looked past it because she seemed like a good fit.
A few weeks into the job it came out that she didn’t know what time zone we were in. That’s not the reason she was late, but it did turn out that her understanding of time and clocks was insufficient for a job where scheduling things across time zone was a primary responsibility.”
The Social Butterfly
“I hired a guy for a new store I was about to open. He was…eccentric, to say the least. He had tons of experience as a salesman and definitely knew his stuff. In the interview, he got a little bit jerky about his salary and health benefits (this is the second interview, salary and benefits were to be discussed with the owners on the 3rd interview, we told him this) But whatever.
We hired the guy, gave him his ideal salary plus commissions plus benefits. The whole package.
The first day he started giving me orders and asking where does he rank on the chain of command. I tell him I’m his boss and he doesn’t like that so much. But whatever.
Then he started giving out candy to all the females in the office and telling them ‘I was thinking about you…have some chocolate.’ I told him that wouldn’t fly here and he should cool it. He told me he was a ‘social butterfly’ and that I was uptight. This was all during his first week. But whatever.
The very next Monday (his 6th day on the job) I get called into the owner’s office with the head of human resources and they straight up ask me what I think of the guy. Turns out all of the females that got the candy from him felt heavily harassed. The dude barely lasted a week on an awesome job because he was a ‘social butterfly.’
What a freaking moron.”
The Last One You’d Expect To Be A Model Employee
“When I was working for my stepdad’s trucking company, I did a little bit of every part of operations. Dispatch, finding new accounts, hiring and firing. It was just a matter of who was available at the time to do the task.
One day a guy comes in asking if we are hiring drivers. I inform him that we are and ask him to have a seat while I grab an application. He stops me and says:
‘Before you bother with that, I have to ask a question that could save us both some time. Do you hire felons?’
To which I replied, ‘it would depend on the felony.’
‘Voluntary manslaughter.’ Oh…no.
Come to find out the guy had done a 10-year stretch in the state pen. Some guys tried to rob him, he shot one in self-defense. There was some nonsense with witnesses, dude couldn’t afford an attorney, public defender talked him into plea bargaining down to manslaughter so he wouldn’t do life.
He had his case file with him. I glanced through it while he filled out the application. I sent him for a urine test same day.
He was one of the best drivers we ever had. He was where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there. He never complained and never caused any problems. He was a model employee. I’d hire 10 guys like that in a heartbeat.”
Don’t Fall For Good Hair And A Flashy Smile!
” Interviews at my workplace were weird. We would have 1 hiring manager, 1 guy from the floor, 1 supervisor, and then 1 female.
I was the female.
The first guy comes in and is dressed very sloppily. His outfit wasn’t that impressive and he stuttered a lot. His looks weren’t that attractive either. I wouldn’t call him ugly, but he was teeter-tottering on the line of unattractive. But his resume though was bonkers.
It was A VERY impressive work history. References from all his previous jobs, mostly management. The skills we needed and then some. This guy could code, animate, fix, design, and you name it, he could do it.
We do the interview and even with all the awkwardness, his resume was his one saving grace.
Enter guy #2. This guy is a knockout. Dressed beautifully, wearing cologne, hair swept back, a smile on his face, and very, VERY sociable. Everyone was impressed by him.
Everyone else was impressed by him on looks alone.
We decided to give these two a final test.
The first guy passes with flying colors and we ask him if he would like to add anything to his resume for documentation, etc. He gave us a list of volunteer activities and a list of notable achievements. We looked it over and were impressed again. Mostly because he did a lot of stuff raising money by playing video games.
The second guy finished the test and just said he ‘has a good feeling about it.’ Walked out without anything else.
I’m sure you know where this is going. We hired the second guy (I lost the vote 3 to 1) and the first guy was told he was put on file.
Two weeks later. Things in the office go missing, people are more stressed than ever, and what’s worse is that we all think its this new guy.
Yeah, it was. He was a womanizer and we all grew sick of his jokes and attempts to pass off his work onto us because he would say ‘I’d owe you.’ By owing us he would take one of us on a date and desperately try to get into our pants.
A harassment suit later and he was canned. We tried calling the first guy, but he already found another job at a better company.”
He Was Persistent!
“I’m not a hiring manager, but I do field many of their phone calls. My favorite is one over the course of 2 weeks.
Me: ‘__ store! What can I do for you today?’
Idiot: ‘I’m calling because I started working for ya’ll…’
Me: ‘Sir, this is the store. I’m the only one who works here, so… what facility were you working at?’
Idiot: ‘Well I started Tuesday night, but I only stayed 2 hours because I got tired. I was hired on to the 11 -7, I never actually got on the work floor, I just sat in orientation, I just wanna know how this makes me look to the company.’
Me (feeling my brain start to ache): ‘Sir? You knew what hours you hired on for? And you left not even halfway through your first shift?’
Idiot: ‘Yeah. I can work 2nd shift though, I know that. Can I talk to HR? What’ll they do?’
Me: ‘Sir, you went to paid orientation because the company had hired you onto a position that you applied for, hours and all, yes?’
Idiot: ‘Yeah but I can’t work that shift, I need a different one.’
Me: ‘I’ll transfer you to HR, but I’d look in the back of the employee handbook to see what it has to say. I’m sure you can’t apply with the company for at least 6 months since you left of your own volition. But maybe they’ll work with you.’
Idiot: ‘But I never actually got to work…’ I transferred him before he could finish.
Later, another call from him. He called because he couldn’t talk to anyone in HR. It was 5 pm. I gave him all the numbers in the world for him to call, when to call, and who to talk to… This idiot harassed me for another 3 days because he wouldn’t leave a message.
Idiot: ‘I can’t get anyone to talk to me, I want to know how I’m supposed to get my check!’
Me: ‘If you didn’t get a work card or have it set up as direct deposit, you’ll receive a check to the address on your paperwork.’
Idiot: ‘I LIVE IN A VAN! MY ADDRESS IS FAKE AND THEY KNEW THAT WHEN I GOT HIRED!’
Me: ‘Sir… again, I’m the grocery clerk. I work alone, I’ve not wronged you and I’ve helped you all that I can. Leave a message and be patient.’
Idiot: ‘WHY?!! They won’t talk to me!’
Me: ‘This is a multi-million dollar company, everyone has hundreds of people to deal with on a daily basis, if you don’t leave a message, how can they ever get in touch to talk with you?’
Idiot: ‘DO YOU THINK IT’S RIGHT FOR THEM TO KEEP MY MONEY?!’
Me: ‘Honestly sir, since it cost the company about $4100.00 just to do the background checks/substance tests/hiring paperwork and you chose to walk off site without saying a thing after only 2 hours of orientation? I’d cut my losses. Please stop calling.’
He called back 3 more times, I had to block a number on a company phone!”
Somehow He Still Has A Job
“I work in retail at a copy center. We had one guy print his resumes as a graphic designer, and then complain about every single tiny detail about his printing job that he could – not printing to the edge (we told him our machine couldn’t), printing the wrong direction on resume paper, the colors were off (we can’t control that well, it’s a laser printer not a photo printer), and overall just kept looking for ways to get his job done for free. When we explained to him why we couldn’t do things perfectly, he pitched a fit or outright ignored what we said.
A few months later, my manager interviewed him for a job in the copy department, and I recognized him immediately. I told my manager that he had been a very difficult customer and that he wouldn’t be a good fit, and even explained how he interacted with the copy department employees. Plus, he gave off a vibe of not knowing boundaries.
He still got hired, and when I was training him, he wanted to know how long until he ‘knew everything.’ I explained to him that this was the kind of job where he needed to be constantly learning and using what he had learned previously in different ways, and he got really sulky.
His first day in the department alone, he couldn’t remember how to make a copy from a single sheet of paper. He let a line of 15 people form, refusing to ask for help until the manager that hired him told him to go to registers and got the copy department back under control. He wasn’t allowed in the copy department alone again after that.
He also followed my boyfriend into the bathroom and stood with his feet under the stall door. He also told him that his ‘nips were showing’ through his shirt.
He still works with us as a cashier, but makes both employees and customers mildly uncomfortable.”
He Was Out Of His Depth
“For context, my boss was not a very good manager but yet he was the director of our team. He had a good work ethic, a good head on his shoulders, and always got things done not only well but on time; he was rightfully rewarded for it all. That said, he possibly has the social IQ of a fish.
In my industry, you need a thick skin and the ability to kind of bulldoze through stuff, people, whatever. It’s heavily rampant with scumbags and frauds, and it’s why we get paid well because we’re capable of navigating through that stuff and saving/making our companies a lot of money in the process. This guy that we were interviewing just didn’t feel like a personality fit during the phone screen. Immediately after the call, I tell my boss that I’m a no. The guy isn’t just going to get run over by our industry, but our own freaking team. He sounds like a great guy, but just not a fit. I get told to give him a chance.
Then comes the in-person interview. It’s basically all confirmed. Super nice dude, I would love to manage him in any other scenario, but not here. He just doesn’t have the personality traits to succeed in our environment – which was admittedly not a good one. The boss tells me ‘Don’t worry. We can fix him.’ First of all, there’s nothing to fix. His personality isn’t bad, it’s just not right for our job. Two, you’re not the one managing him, I am!
The dude ends up accepting our offer. Honestly, I love the guy. He’s so friendly, earnest, and worked really hard because he saw the gaps in his skill sets from where he was an where he needed to be. But it took a giant toll on him, and eventually me. The guy ended up being diagnosed as clinically depressed, he hated the freaking job, and I was nowhere near experienced enough as a manager to handle something like that.
When he was at his wit’s end, I just told him to take a break (start with a vacation so that he’s paid, and then decide whether or not he wants to leave afterward), take care of himself, and to utilize me in any way he could for future prospects outside of our work. He left after that.”
He Couldn’t Accept Not Knowing It All
“I was a hiring manager of a third tier systems engineering team, but I was often asked to help interview candidates for the second tier team because of my expertise in the subject matter. Nonetheless, it was not my final call on the position.
Two things I always do in interviews is spot-check technical knowledge indicated on the resume – the more surprising or out of place in terms of the rest of the work experience, the more likely I’ll ask a question or two on it, and two, ask a question that the candidate doesn’t know the answer to.
The former is to detect people straight up lying on their resume, the latter to see how a candidate answers when they don’t know the answer to the question. (I make it clear at the outset of the interview that if a candidate doesn’t know the answer I want them to say ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I’m not sure,’ and then feel free to offer, ‘my best guess would be…’) Being able to separate what you know from what you don’t know is really important. That will be part of their job on the team, rather than lying an answer at the time. A good engineer knows that they won’t have the answer to every question, and it’s better to be clear about the limits of their knowledge.
Anyhow. This dude is interviewing for second tier team. Solid resume, with 20-25 years of work experience in relevant stuff. I notice assembly language programming history on his resume, like 18 years back, and I’m intrigued, because it’s fairly uncommon, even amongst systems engineers, and it’s also an area of personal expertise I can spot-check effectively. I asked him to name three assembly instruction names. He more or less panicked and pooped himself. Stammering, physically sweating, visibly nervous like we were about to feed him to lions. He’s like ‘oh man, that stuff was 20 years ago, I don’t really remember it, I’m not going to need that for this job, am I?’
I reassured him, ‘no worries, you don’t need it for this role, I’m just trying to confirm that you did actually work with it at one time. Tell you what, name me two of the general purpose registers.’ After a moment of racking his brain, he successfully did so. I’m like ‘cool, alright, next,’ just moving right along.
For the rest of the interview he keeps bringing up ‘hey man, I’m sorry about that assembly question but…’ and I keep saying ‘don’t worry, I realize it’s rusty, but you obviously used to work with it, because there’s no way you would have just correctly made up the register names, that’s all I was checking.’ For the next 20 minutes, every tiny break in the discussion, he keeps apologizing and coming back to it.
After the interview, we (me, the second tier manager, and his lead engineer who sat in the interview) huddle up and I say ‘nope.’ He couldn’t let it go that he didn’t know something. That will happen, and it’s just part of your job to say so, and move on. People who can’t admit they don’t know things are dangerous, because they get in over their heads.
Second tier manager says ‘yeah, I kinda had the same thought, but HR says we gotta fill this position by tomorrow or lose it, and honestly he’s the best guy we’ve had come through so far. We’re better off to fill it and then have to fire him and backfill later if need be than to lose the headcount.’ Fair enough. Dude was hired.
Flash forward a bit, the dude calls my cell at 6:30 AM (my contact number was published as an escalation point) – ‘Dude, I think I messed up, can you help me?’
It turns out he made a simple mistake about 4.5 hours ago and has been compounding it by getting further and further out of his depth trying to fix it for the last several hours. What was a mistake that could have taken 15 minutes to correct is now so messed up that even I can’t recover it fully (although he was calling me as the best possible hope to try to recover it).
Now, unfortunately, he’s already broken policy at least twice by this point. When he got an unexpected error in the procedure he was doing on the system that wasn’t accounted for in the procedure, he was required to stop and escalate (initially to his team lead, then to my team) for assistance, but he didn’t. Also, once it hit 6 AM, and we were no longer in a ‘maintenance window’ he was required to send out a management notice indicating that the maintenance was ongoing, and had encountered issues. He had done neither because he felt on the hook for the initial, trivial mistake that would have been easily fixed if he’d gotten a second set of eyes. And he didn’t want to admit he had messed up and didn’t know how to fix it. Started Googling stuff at random, and entering commands (as root) that he had no idea what they really did, that might or might not really be for the same problem. Rinse repeat. Hilarity ensues.
He wanted me to help him keep it off the executive radar, and fix it quietly without anyone ever knowing. As much as I hated to do it, I had to tell him I couldn’t do that. I told him if he’d called me at 1:30 AM, when things went sideways, I’d have sorted him out in 15 minutes, and never said a word, but once it’s already past the window, and the monitoring system is still lit up like a Christmas tree, I can’t be digging around the system secretly, in direct violation of every policy on the books. I had to make upper management aware, then managed to quasi restore the system over the next hour and a half, leading to restoring the system for the ~100k customers depending on it, although it had to later be fully reinstalled from the ground up to fully restore it.
He quit before he could get fired shortly thereafter (his manager was actually just going to write him up and work with him).
But that inability to admit you aren’t all-knowing and all-powerful will abso-friggin-lutely bite you in the butt.”
The Phish Test
“10 years ago, I used to ask everyone, ‘What do you think of the band Phish?’ It was a way to weed out slackers, stoners, dope heads, etc.
I asked one guy that and he goes off on a 5-minute tangent about following Phish around the country or something.
I vote no on the guy.
But it turns out his grandfather is some super senior exec at a big client, so the guy automatically gets hired. I tell the department head ‘bro, it’s totally cool we hired this guy but we need to allocate his whole salary to business development and not let the department take a hit to our metrics when he is an idiot.’
I got told ‘Oh no, he’ll be a great worker.’
This guy was the most worthless piece of trash I’ve ever laid eyes on and his metrics pulled down our whole department.
When his granddad retired, he got run out after about a week, but got a freaking YEAR of severance.”
He Wanted It HIS Way
“A candidate for a supervisor position was asked about a time when they had trouble completing a task (I hate corporate interviews!). The candidate mentions something they struggled with but the answer was that they found a way of completing the task that worked for them and did that going forward.
So, we kind of take that to be a big positive for thinking outside the box and being able to solve problems independently using the tools available to them. Now, this was a preferred candidate so we didn’t do a lot of deep digging questions around the standard questions we were required to ask by corporate.
Fast-forward and the candidate is now a supervisor. We have a team of about 12. There is an opening checklist and a closing checklist. The guy struggles with learning tasks on the checklist. No other team member has an issue with the tasks on the checklist as it literally writes out what buttons you need to press. He concludes that the checklist is poorly done since they cannot understand it. He proceeds to make changes to checklist master document to the way they feel it should be done and chaos ensues.
Now we have a supervisor that understands the checklist, about 3-4 team members that just press the buttons, and the rest of the team is now lost. On top of this, the manager checklists have tasks that can only be done once staff has done their tasks. As a result of some of these tasks being removed from the checklist, manager tasks are no longer being done on time and everything is thrown off.
When coached on this incident, the guy did not ask a trainer, a teammate, or a manager about how to understand the checklist and just made changes without communicating this to rest of the team. We did thank him for being proactive but then worked as a team to make any necessary changes, using the original as a template. We also did some extra coaching on what he didn’t understand. It took a few weeks to get everything back on track though and our scores took a hit as a result. The guy was up for manager position at another location. He puts on his resume ‘revamped morning/evening checklists for improved team performance.’
Couldn’t help but chuckle at that one.”
He Can’t Stop Complaining
“I was evaluating applications for a position. One candidate gave some very thoughtful, insightful criticisms of his current workplace. We appreciated his candor, and the content of the critiques were perceptive.
When we hired him, we realized that while he spoke well and appeared intelligent, all he could do is criticize everything. Even when his criticisms made no sense. We started to see him complaining about the same things with us that he complained about in his letter, even things that were objectively false (like our vacation policy being use-it-or-lose-it, which it literally wasn’t).
Moral: a good candidate will find ways to frame criticisms in a positive, forward-looking way in a cover letter, not complain about their current employer.”
The Age Gap Was Too Much
“I had to hire new people for the IT team.
This guy came along with a ton of experience, pretty much spot on, there were some differences in code styles but that was that. The only thing was, the guy was around 15 years older than me and had 10 years of experience more. I specifically asked him how he would be around someone much younger maybe making decisions that he might not like (I’m all up for democracy in projects, but sometimes there is more at play then specifics, as a developer, I know what those are like).
He told me he was fine with it and that we could just talk about it when it came up. It turned out that I was arguing over every little thing in a ‘his way or the highway’ kind of deal. Should have seen that one coming in hindsight.”