Job interviews can be nerve wracking. But what are interviews like for the interviewer when the candidate is completely flopping?
Here, employers share their worst job interview experiences.
Had a guy who interviewed for a position. Seemed to do okay in the actual interview, but when he was not selected for the position, he sent us an invoice of a few thousand dollars. He charged us his “normal hourly rate” for his time and billed us for 50 hours.
The interview was 30 minutes over the phone with a recruiter and 1 hour onsite. He drove to the office which only took him about 30 minutes to drive. He did itemize the bill for us and the bulk of those hours were for “preparation”. We did not pay him. He tried to insist we pay him. We showed our lawyers who just laughed so we still did not pay him.
The best part was he was interviewing for an HR position.
One time an applicant told me that he was temporarily placed in charge of a team, and one of the team members spoke mostly French so he told him to “learn English or get the crap out of here,” and then subsequently sent him home when he did not immediately learn English.
The question was “Tell me about a time that you worked well under loose supervision.”
When my dad was going through applications, in the “reason for leaving last job” part, a man wrote that he had shot his previous boss in the head. His PO had told him to be honest.
So this guy went through five 30-60 min interviews. I thought he was great and was ready to hire him. Just as a formally I asked MY boss to interview him. After 15 mins she walks out and tell us to send him home.
This is what he asked her. “I’m not sexist, but I know a lot of other people think women aren’t great engineers, so my question is… How is it that you go into such a high level position? … Was it luck?”
Why? Why would you EVER ask that?
A woman was about 15 years older than I was and clearly didn’t understand that I was the one actually interviewing her for the job. This was an engineering position on my team making ~$175K. She was very candid with me regarding her overall personality and actually put her purse on her lap at one point and doing her makeup while we were talking. I guess she thought I was the secretary and she was making small talk before meeting with my boss?
Interviewer: So, what qualities can you bring to the team?
Applicant: Uhm, I don’t know.
Interviewer: Well, what do you consider yourself good at?
Applicant: Uhm, I don’t know?
Interviewer: Ok, why did you apply to the position?
Applicant: They told me to.
Interviewer: Who told you to apply?
Applicant: Uhm, I don’t know?
Back when I was HR Manager for a market research firm, one of the most awkward interviews was with my candidate and his mother.
This 19 year old who apparently had previous work experience in customer service brought his mother into the interview with him. I politely questioned his mother as to the reasoning of her joining in on the interview and I was told, “I’m just making sure this is the right company for him and making sure you’re asking fair questions.”
I decided to roll with it (why not, this is the most interesting thing I’ve had all week) so I asked my first question.. she answered for him. I politely explained that the interviews I conduct are with the candidate only unless special accommodations are required. I was told, “I’m not going anywhere.”
I thanked them both for coming out and explained that the position requires problem solving and critical thinking on an individual level. Unless I am hiring the both of them under one salary working together as a “full time equivalent”, this wouldn’t work. I was then told I would be sued and to screw myself.
We had an applicant for a teaching position who stated on his resume that he held a Master of Music degree from Yale.
When interviewing him, I asked what he thought of Woolsey Hall (Yale’s primary concert hall) and its renowned pipe organ. By his answer and facial expression, I could tell he’d never been there.
After he left, I called contacts at the university who confirmed that they’d never heard of him and no one by his name had received a degree there.
I once interviewed a guy for a work study position at a college radio station. The position was for ten hours a week as a sports reporter. I told him that he would sometimes have to carry the equipment for the remote broadcast of sports and he immediately took his shoe and sock off and put his foot on the table to show me a scar on his foot. Tells me that he has a plate in his foot and sometimes it hurts and he wouldn’t be able to carry heavy things when it was hurting.
I had a guy come in for site work truck driving and earthmoving equipment position. After the initial pleasantries he went on to inform me that he didn’t like small talk, his pet peeve is people who socialize too much on the job when there is work to be done, he likes to get right to it and get hammering away on that work he just doesn’t understand these people who just talk talk talk instead of getting on with it not like him, he’s not interested in chatting no he’s got a better work ethic than these damn kids and he’s not going to stand around gabbing about nothing when time is wasting etc etc etc.
He went on like that, no exaggeration, for an hour and 20 minutes. A solid hour and a half including the initial question and answer bit at the beginning. I wasn’t even mad, I just let him ramble on. At the end of it he asked if he would be starting that day or if I needed to “do some of this paperwork stuff” for him.
He hadn’t even filled out his pre-hire information forms.
My dad made someone lose it in an interview.
Interview happened in a cubicle near his and the way the applicant sat, he had a direct line of sight to my dad while his coworker had her back to him.
He sneezed and his dentures flew out of his mouth… right into his garbage can.
The guy lost it. He was screaming with laughter. The coworker was really pissed off that the candidate wasn’t taking the interview seriously, especially since all he was laughing at was at my dad, fishing out something out of a basket.
I was sitting in on an interview and this kid comes in with an open Hawaiian shirt and khakis. This was for a state job, mind you. When asked if he had any questions for us, he goes, “Yeah, do you drug test?” And when walking him out of the building, he’s looking at the pictures of all the heads of that department and stops at the only woman on there and goes, “When can I meet her? I want to know about her life.”
We immediately shredded his application.
I interviewed an Italian girl who couldn’t speak English. She had only moved to the country a few weeks prior and I think this was her first interview but it was all so painful. Nearly every question was answered with “si, …**pause**…yes”. Even questions that you shouldn’t answer with a yes. I decided to be nice and go through all of my questions but it was ridiculous, like I nearly called an Italian speaker to come and translate for us.
“If you had multiple asks coming from different parts of the business and they were all due today, but you couldn’t finish them all in time, how would you try to balance this?”
“No, say it’s not possible to do them all by today, what would you do?”
“So you don’t have time to do them all. Would you see if you could re-prioritize any of these, or would you just not do them or something else?”
“What I’m normally expecting here is something along the lines of you either asking the someone for more time, or looking for help from a colleague, or even speaking to your manager and asking for a list of priorities from them. Which of these would you be most likely to do?”
“**longer-pause**, si, …**pause**…yes”
At the end of the interview I was then just asking her general “shoot the shit questions”. She said she was currently learning English. So I asked her where was she learning it, and told me “only for a few weeks”. So I said, ‘no, the location of the school? Where is it located?’ and I get a blank face. I eventually started naming streets, and she goes “ahhh! Dove!” and she tells me the street name.
After the interview I told our recruiter that she can’t speak English and we won’t be proceeding further. The recruiter told me that she had spent 40 minutes with her on the phone (in English) making sure she understood the role. When I asked her if the applicant said anything more than “si” or “yes”, she looked a bit embarrassed.
Work in Telecom. Position was a Tier III support job (roughly $100k salary).
One of my favorite questions is “What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?” where I generally follow up to look at how they handled it and what they learned. I’ve received many weird replies to this question from “my first wife” to outbursts at kids sporting events. But this one takes the cake….
I knew shit was about to go down when the candidate looked behind him apparently to see if anyone else was listening (other than the 3 of us interviewing him). Then he leans in and in a hushed voice he explains..
“I was out on a service call at X central office (middle of a major city) and after I finished my work, I bent down to clean up my tools, and I managed to kill power to X (massive phone switch). I heard the fans spinning down, and immediately spun around and flipped power back on, but there were alarms going off and I was terrified. I grabbed my stuff and ran out of the building. I drove around the city, scared to death that I was going to get fired, and thought I should go back and man up. When I got back into the CO, it was FILLED with executives and people running around. When I came through the door they all proclaimed, “THANK THE LORD you’re here!!!” I spent about 2 hours getting the switch back up, and they all thanked me. I don’t know why I just shared that since I’ve never told anyone that story, but yeah, that was my biggest mistake.”
Despite how awesome the story was, we passed on him.
I was working as a front end supervisor for a big box retailer going into the holiday season. This was the beginning of November.
I get this girl who came in for an interview and I let her know it was seasonal work, but that we would be keeping some of the seasonal hires after January and inquired as to whether she was looking for seasonal or long-term.
She replied, “Well, I basically got in trouble for bad grades and staying out too late, and my parents are making me pay for my own car insurance this month.”
That was it. She just stared at me expecting her to hire her on the spot.
I did not do that. I do still wonder if she ever got a job that helped her pay her car insurance for that month, though.
I sat in for resident assistent interviews at my college.
We had an eagle scout come in and take us page by page through a scrap book about his scout career.
PAGE. BY. PAGE.
It was 10 or 20 pages of him explaining each and every one taking a min or 2 each time. We interrupted him to continue the interview to which he got a little angry and said he was almost finished.
He was able to add a page after the interview on how being an eagle scout doesn’t guarantee you an RA job.
My old boss told me that one of the applicants put Jesus Christ has a reference. He asked him “How would we contact your reference…”
The applicant didn’t put any contact info for Jesus and my old boss was curious on how he will answer. Apparently the applicant told him “Like this” and then he started praying.
I sat in on interviews with a manager at the restaurant I worked at. I remember this application he pulled specifically cause the kid was from the same rough part of town the manager was. The manager comes in on a 5 minute rant on how much he hates scam artists trying to get money off decent people in the streets.
Upon hearing this the kid launched into a story about telling people he locked his keys in the car with his wallet and just needed $20 for pop a lock. Explains he could make $300 on a good day. The kicker? He doesn’t have a car! He laughs while all of us stare at him dumbfounded. Manager kicked him out.
In 2010, I conducted an interview with an applicant for a warehouse job. During the course of the interview, I mentioned my slight frustration about the grounded flights in Europe due to the volcano eruption in Iceland. Grounded flights meant we weren’t receiving stock, and work was slow as a result.
Applicant chimed in with (and I’m paraphrasing), “It’s just another one of those things. He knows. He’s mad.”
“God. He’s mad. Just like that big tsunami a few years ago. God’s mad, and he’s letting us know. We need to be more careful.”
“More careful about what, do you think?”
“This whole gay-acceptance thing. God’s mad and he’s letting us know. We need to abide by the Good Book or this kind of thing is just gonna keep happening.”
Then he failed the drug test.
Had a girl sit across from me put her elbow on my desk then rested her head flat on her hand so that her head was now sideways. She stayed that way through the entire interview.
Another time I asked a guy if he had any special skills, he replied “Keepin’ it real with y’all”
Worst one I had was a guy that showed up and refused to answer any question. “I don’t know.” “That doesn’t apply to me.”
So after six questions I asked “Do you expect to get hired after this?” He said yes.