You’ve probably walked out of a job interview at some point in your life, thinking, I just bombed that. Maybe you were asked difficult questions, or you realised the job wasn’t a good fit halfway through. Either way, it probably felt like the worst interview experience ever.
But, unless you were hit on by the hiring manager, or your interviewer was Tweeting throughout the conversation, you probably didn’t have it so bad.
That’s right: some job candidates endure some extremely rude, inappropriate, and odd behaviour during their interviews. And while it’s probably no fun to experience that, they’re likely to come out of it with insight for next time — and, perhaps a really good story.
We decided to ask our coworkers at Business Insider to share some of their worst — and weirdest — interview experiences. Here’s what they had to say:
Melissa Stanger, Associate Editor, Lists and Rankings: “I interviewed a couple of years ago for a job at a fairly new startup. I entered the conference room where my interviewer had his laptop hooked up to a projector screen behind him. First, he hadn’t reviewed my resume or cover letter beforehand; he pulled it up for the first time as we sat down. Then he went through the usual questions, typing with the occasional nod and ‘uh-huh’ as I answered. He must have forgotten the computer was hooked up to the projector though, because I could see him browsing Facebook as we ‘chatted.’ I was so put off that as soon as I left the office I emailed him to withdraw my candidacy.”
Henry Blodget, Founder & CEO: “In one of my first Wall Street interviews, the banker who was interviewing me took off his watch, handed it to me, and asked me to sell it to him. I had never sold anybody anything. So after stammering for a while, I flunked the test: ‘Um, I have here a watch…’ Thankfully, that banker didn’t throw me out of his office. In fact, he took pity on me and explained that the way to sell someone something is to demonstrate the need for it.”
Julia Cannon, Politics Intern: “A girl from my high school completely made up an entire biology project she was ‘in the midst of supervising’ during an interview. She mentioned her teacher’s name, who was a real person. The interviewer followed up with the teacher for a reference. Needless to say, she didn’t end up getting the job.”
Jim Edwards, Deputy Editor: “I interviewed for a job as a copy editor at the Hartford Courant once. At the time, this would have been a huge leap in my career as the Courant was a huge paper in its heyday. The guy who interviewed me, however, was suffering from the worst streaming cold I’d ever seen. He wept involuntarily throughout the entire interview. His nose was running viciously, and every few seconds he had to stop to blow it or wipe it. He sneezed repeatedly, and his voice was hoarse and thick with phlegm he could barely talk. I’ve never seen someone so sick who nonetheless showed up to work.
I didn’t get the job. I suspect he couldn’t even see my face from the tears in his eyes.”
Sydney Kramer, Operations Manager: “When I first moved to New York, I had just graduated college and I was desperate for a job. I was going through the usual round of recruiting agency after recruiting agency when finally, one recruiter got me an interview for an assistant position at a hedge fund. The recruiter coached me on my interview, telling me what to say and what not to say, then at the end, he said, ‘If you don’t say exactly what we discussed, I’ll rip your fingernails off!’ I was honestly not sure if he was joking or not. Thankfully, I got the job and kept my fingernails.”
Jenna Goudreau, Senior Editor: “I was interviewing with a New York-based media company and met several of the top editors. When I interviewed with the editor-in-chief in his office, he was on his computer the entire time. It seemed he was paying more attention to whatever he was writing than to me. When I left, I saw he’d been tweeting during the interview!”
Rachel Moore, Events Intern: “In more than one interview, I’ve gotten the standard, ‘Tell me a little more about yourself” and, more than once, I have begun by saying ‘…well my name is Rachel.’ Of course my interviewer knew my name. But even on this most simple of questions, I stumbled. I finally got around to practicing a thoughtful, less obvious answer.”
Dylan Love, Tech Reporter: “I was on a get-a-job reality show for MTV when things were especially hand-to-mouth in 2010 (don’t bother Googling the show, it never aired). At the bottom of my resume is a ‘miscellaneous’ section where I brag about offbeat skills. One of these is sleight of hand magic.
I sat down at the job interview desk, squared off against an especially white-toothed guy in broadcast makeup while I did my best impression of someone who has it totally together. White-Toothed Guy rattles off the worst interview questions you’d expect, but in a totally over-the-top manner, hamming it up for the folks at home.
Save for the fact that I was participating in a reality show where the winner got a job stocking shelves at a raw vegan grocery store, I got through the interview mostly unscathed, dignity largely intact. Then White Teeth took it from me.
‘Your resume mentions magic! How about a card trick?!’
I didn’t have cards on me (my mistake, as a standard deck is my go-to magic prop), but I did have some loose change in my pocket. I produced a quarter, made it disappear, and to my great embarrassment, literally said ‘Tah-dah!’
White Teeth calls my bluff: ‘You just put it in your other hand. I know that one, that’s called a French Drop. That’s one of the first magic tricks a kid learns!’ He chuckles — pretty sure at me rather than with me. This sets off the rest of the production team, and now a room full of television professionals is laughing at me.”
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