Just smile, and nod. Be polite, and boring. “What’s your greatest weakness?” Sometimes I work too hard. It could all be so simple. But oh no: you had to improvise, didn’t you?
This piece is based on an AskReddit thread. Link on the last page.
1. Hoist by your own petard.
So this guy had already gone through five 30-60 min interviews. I thought he was great and was ready to hire him. Just as a formality I asked my boss to interview him. After 15 mins she walks out and tells 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 got into such a high level position? … Was it luck?”
Why? Why would you EVER ask that?
2. Cross reference.
My old boss told me that one of the applicants put ‘Jesus’ as a reference. He asked him “How would we contact your reference?” Apparently the applicant told him, “Like this.” And then he started praying.
3. Invoices in your head.
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. I was a 30 minute phone interview.
4. Bossed in translation.
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 out,” 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.”
5. Mum’s the word.
Back when I was HR Manager for a market research firm, one of the most awkward interviews involved both the candidate and his mother. This 19-year-old man 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 thats happened 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 go f*** myself.
6. The truth will not set you free.
In the “reason for leaving your last job” part, a man wrote that he had shot his previous boss. His parole officer had told him to be honest.
7. Organ failure.
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.
8. Can’t make that up.
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 about $175K. She was very candid with me regarding her overall personality (which wasnt great) 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?
9. Fire and brimstone.
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 that 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.
10. It was over at “Hawaiian shirt”.
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.
11. What’s this subtitle? I don’t know.
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?
12. Out of labor.
I had to interview a guy for some contract labor. When I showed him our work vehicle, he shook my hand and said, Im sorry but I refuse to drive a Chevy” and left. I was speechless. He told me a story about what a rough time he was having making ends meet, so I decided to give him a shot. Because we had a Silverado for the work vehicle he turned me down. He had three young children!
13. I’d rather be a liar than this guy.
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 it was about to go down when the candidate looked behind him to see if anyone else was listening (other than the three 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 wondering if I should go back and man up. When I got back into the company, it was FILLED with executives and people running around. When I came through the door they all proclaimed, “THANK GOD you’re here!!!” I spent about two 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.
14. What an inspiration you are.
Just a few weeks ago I interviewed a girl for a healthcare position. The question was something like “tell me about a time you were forced into a new situation and how did you adjust.” She proceeds to tell us about the time she was forced to move to an area with “colored people” and how she learned to “deal with them.”
15. You scream, I scream.
At my old retail job, I went into the storeroom to grab something as another coworker was clocking in. We overheard and then got dragged into an interview my then manager was doing.
The guy for some unknown reason went off on a PETA rant and lecture on the evils of hunting and how awful hunters are. To my manager and coworkers who just received their deer permits (which he had no knowledge of).
He just decided to rant and semi-scream at us, and drag us into the interview. It turned into almost a half hour rant. After the guy left I asked our manger what was that about? Manager replied, “I asked him to tell me a little about himself.” Yeah the guy did not get the job.
16. Foot in the door.
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 he immediately took his shoe and sock off and put his foot on the table.
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.
17. This guy would form a committee to reduce bureaucracy.
I had a guy come in for a 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, and he just doesn’t understand these people who just talk talk talk instead of getting on with it like him, he’s not interested in chatting – no – he’s got a better work ethic than these stupid 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.
18. Umm like hire me?
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.
In the most stereotypical Valley-Girl voice I’ve ever heard 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 me to hire her on the spot.
19. Half of life is showing up.
My boss told me about a woman she interviewed about 6 months before I was hired. She came in for the interview in cut off jean shorts and a “nice” top that was more appropriate for the club scene.
Anyway, my boss decided early on in the interview that this woman wouldn’t be hired. But the following Monday though, she came in for work anyway.
They had to tell her she didn’t have the job and they were still going over all the other applicants. She left but came back Tuesday and then Wednesday. In fact, she came in every day for a week, thinking she had the job. My boss finally had to tell her if she came back, they would call the police on her. She finally got the hint, but I guess she really wanted to work there.
20. Didn’t want it anyway…
A position opened. A young kid fresh out of college applied. His dad was in the senior leadership of the company, so of course we were obliged to interview him. He was 30 minutes late to the interview, but still managed to come in with a fresh Starbucks. He basically bombed the interview, but we offered him a follow-up call out of courtesy. He completely missed it.
About a week later, he e-mailed me (CC’ing daddy) saying he wasn’t interested in the position. I replied to all that based on his inability to make two interviews on time, he was no longer considered a candidate.
21. PLEASE NOBODY HIRE THIS MANIAC.
I asked a guy when would he be available to begin work if offered the position…his response was that he would have to put down his dogs in order to begin work as soon as possible but was willing to do that to get the job.
We called him almost immediately after the interview to tell him he wasn’t selected and save his dogs lives.
22. He’s a fungi.
One spring day in college I decided to do magic mushrooms with my roommate and two other friends. About an hour in, were very high, and my roommate tells the rest of us that he needs to go somewhere. We are confused because we thought we would be tripping together, and then my roommate breaks it to us that he has a job interview at a museum that day.
Fast forward to two hours later, we give him a call, and he tells us he’s back at our dorm room. We ask him how the interview went and he just tells us that the moment he opened the door and stepped into the interview room he bursted out laughing uncontrollably. After a few moments of giggling, he literally fell on the floor and continued laughing, at which point the interviewer just told him to get out.