*Note: We’ve added a couple more reader submissions that have come in since posting the article this morning. Keep them coming!
When you’re job hunting, you’re in a vulnerable position. You have to be on top of your game and really know your stuff to wow a potential boss.
Unfortunately, not everyone nails their interviews. Nerves can get the better of you, or your interviewer (or interviewee for that matter) can be a down-right jerk.
We asked readers for their worst interview failures, and we got some pretty amusing stories.
From an interviewer whose candidate left him a smelly surprise to a girl who forgot her own phone number and started cursing, we’ve brought you twelve hilarious tales that will scare you into being prepared for your next job search.
Laugh from them, and learn from them.
During my junior year at Dartmouth I interviewed for Lehman Brothers at their corporate NYC headquarters. I was taking part in a 'super day,' which means you have 6 - 8 30 minute interviews, back to back to back, etc. My first interviewer was easy enough, but my second kicked my butt.
Upon entering, he immediately asked: 'Why are you here?' to which I replied, 'I was hoping to get a job offer...'
He then asked what my last interviewer's name was. I responded and he asked if I'd risk my potential job opportunity on my response. I was floored, not knowing if he was serious. He assured me he was.
I told him no, I wasn't 100% on my answer, so I wouldn't risk getting thrown out. He blinked once, and then asked what the cubed root of 1000 was and immediately started counting down from five. At 3 he said I better respond or I'm out. I responded and he asked me again if I'd risk my job opportunity.
I told him no again, this time stating that the risk versus reward payoff was not worth it. Then came, 'What is 15/16 in decimal form' and the count down from 5 begin again. Next came a flood of arbitrage questions that I managed to fend off, but needless to say I felt completely crushed.
Good news though, I got the job offer in the end, bad news: it was at Lehman Brothers.
Source: emailed submission
One time, I had a candidate come in. We sat down in a conference room that wasn't very big, probably 12x12. I asked him initial questions and decided he would be safe to introduce to the next HR manager.
I left the room briefly to make sure the next person he would be meeting with was available. When I came back, the room smelled awful, like something had died. Apparently the candidate thought I would be gone longer and that it was a safe time to fart.
The interview ended shortly after that with me gasping for air.
Source: as told by an HR executive at a NYC startup
I interviewed at Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) over the summer for a director role within their marketing organisation. Amidst about 6 interviews over the full day, I eventually got my sit-down with the hiring manager, a vice president of marketing.
After five minutes in his office, he suggested we continue the interview over lunch, which sounded like a great idea. He took me to the Carnival employee cafeteria, and suggested that I order anything I wanted and we'd catch-up at the cash register. There, I ran into a woman who had worked for me in a junior capacity for another Miami employer, someone who I hadn't seen in 2-3 years. Let's call her 'Lori'.
It soon became apparent that she was interviewing for the same role. Talk about awkward!
Our hiring manager -- the VP of Marketing -- noticed that Lori and I knew each other, and he thought it would be a 'swell' idea for all of us -- Lori, the other Carnival director, the Carnival VP, and me -- to sit down and all have our lunches together, in the middle of the cafeteria.
Well, the forum didn't really provide much of a setting for me to talk about how I might help Carnival with the position they were looking to fill, so I was left to make dumb comments about the 'great on-site kid's camp' for children of employees, and to comment to Lori that I'd heard she had been pregnant.
The VP and other Carnival director, meanwhile, were happy to talk with each other openly about other work deliverables and to congratulate Lori on having a baby, etc. Lunch ended and I continued with my other interviews, pretty much having had no time with the hiring manager ... who's next 45 minute meeting was with Lori, of course, presumably not in the cafeteria or with other candidates present.
This goes without saying, but I didn't get the job.
Source: emailed submission
I was interviewing a potential attorney for our company. This person was already pretty impressed with themselves in the interview -- not one of my favourite traits in an interviewee.
Then her cell phone rang -- she cut me off mid-sentence to answer the phone and then, instead of saying she would call back, began to have an extended conversation.
I got up, walked out of the room, and told the person guiding her through the interview process that she was not a fit.
Source: emailed submission
My second job interview after college happened in Hong Kong with a large shipping company.
In college, we were told interviewers frequently ask, 'What are your strengths?' I made a mental note of my answer and, as luck would have it, this is just what I was asked. My response: 'I am organised, detail oriented' and so on. Feeling quite smug that I nailed the answer, I sat back in my chair and flashed my interviewers a premature smile.
The very next question (which I was not prepared for) was the no-brainer follow-up: What are your weaknesses?
Completely stunned by this turn of events, my smile quickly vanished. I was horrified. I had no prepared answer for this question. I looked at the two people interviewing me hoping they might give me some clue as to what they wanted, but they didn't give me one. I looked out the window, I looked at the offices next door and then I looked up at the ceiling. Nothing -- nothing at all -- came to mind.
But then in an instant, without thinking, I blurted out my answer. It must have come from looking up into the heavens but I said with absolute incredulity, 'I have a weakness for the flesh!'
Both interviewers fell off their chairs laughing so hard that they didn't get up for a few minutes. One of them was so tickled with this answer I could see him telling each person at the desk outside the conference room after he left the room in contorted laughter.
I did not get the job.
Source: emailed submission
On his search for a job in private equity at KKR and TPG, two asset management funds, one candidate has been on some gruelling interviews.
First, he says, the typical interviewee is walked into a little room and told he has two hours to write out the steps necessary in something like an LBO (leveraged buy-out), for example.
His job is to select a company he thinks a private equity firm like KKR or TPG is well poised to manage an LBO or IPO for, write out how they should do it, and prepare for the questions about the LBO that are coming next.
Once done, the interviewee is taken into a room with one or more men (it is usually men, he says). They ask him to walk them through each step he took and listen while he justifies the reasons behind everything he suggested. If he does well, he is brought into another room where he begins an interview with someone else. The whole process takes at least three hours, he says, they are trying to trip you up the entire time.
The worst was when he walked into an office and the man interviewing him (who was 'such an arsehole') bluntly laid out for him a rigid schedule of how an interviewee should structure his discussion topics for the 20 minute interview.
- 00:00 - 07:00 Resume
- 07:00 - 14:00 Case study (the LBO or IPO he spent two hours modelling)
- 14:00 - 18:00 Deals he worked on in the past
- 18:00 - 20:00 Questions
Part of the interview is how well you are able to adhere to the schedule. The safety net is fewer than two minutes; if there is no time left over for questions, the interviewee knows he is toast.
Source: Written by Business Insider's Courtney Comstock, You Think The Google Interview Is Tough? Try Getting A Job At A PE Firm
One time, an ad agency called me back in response to my resume submission. Naturally, I returned the call.
'Hi, may I please speak to Mr. Johnson?*'
'Mrs. Johnson?' The person on the other line inquired.
'No,' I responded emphatically, 'This is Marni Smith.*' 'Can I please speak to Mr. Johnson?' This person must have thought I was his wife or girlfriend calling.
'MRS. Johnson?' They responded again.
I was bewildered 'Umm, no. This is Marni. Is Mr. Chris Johnson there??'
Sounding equally annoyed, the person shot back, 'You mean MRS Chris Johnson. Yah, she's not here right now.' When the phone clicked, I realised my mistake.
My call was never returned. But in my defence, the person's name was Chris...
Source: Email submission. *Names have been changed.
I was about to leave for a job interview when I realised my cell phone battery had died. I made the quick decision to leave it at home. Though I left plenty of time to get to the interview, I got lost on the way and ended up being about 15-20 minutes late...and, of course, I had no phone, so I couldn't call to let them know or ask for directions.
Well, I eventually got there, talked to the company owner, and then to several of the employees. Then went back to talk to the boss -- the whole thing started late in the day, so it was well after 5pm by this point, and the boss was really a talker.
By 7pm I was still there. Then the office phone rang; since the company is small and there was no one else there after seven, the boss answered...and it was my husband, trying to find me. He'd gotten worried that I was so late. He'd seen my cell phone at home and figured that maybe I got into an accident or something and couldn't call; I'd left the company's information on my computer screen so he found it there. I was completely mortified!
At a previous job, we had a guy come in to interview for a developer position.
He arrived dressed in a jacket and tie... sans shirt. Yes, his tie was just tied around his bare neck. He never bothered to explain this, and we were too shocked to comment. Needless to say, we didn't hire him.
Interviewee lesson: It's shirt AND tie, not shirt OR tie.
- Know who you're speaking with. Try to find out the name (and gender) of the person that will be interviewing you, and some facts about them.
- Have confidence, even if you're not sure your answer is what the interviewer was looking for. Try to overcome nerves.
- First impressions are not easy to repair. Studies show it can take 20 additional contacts to repair a botched initial meeting, so try to get it right the first time.
- Make your time with an interviewer a priority. Do not excuse yourself or interrupt the meeting for anything personal unless it is life or death. If you know something important might arise prior to your interview, either reschedule the meeting or inform your interviewer beforehand so they're not caught off guard.
- Do not have cell phones or other personal devices present at the interview. Turn them off and stow them away.
- Always be prepared. When you're job hunting, recruiters will contact you at will. If an unknown caller is trying to reach you, respond professionally and pay attention, just in case.
- Everyone has had an interview experience that could have gone better. Try not to dwell on the bad experiences; you could be destined for greatness somewhere else.
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