Worst Job Interview You Were the Inteviewer On

I was interviewing an internal candidate for an entry level management position. The interview panel consisted of the VP and director form the department and HR (me). At the beginning of every interview I like to tell the candidate about our process, have everyone on the panel introduce themselves, and ask a few basic questions just to loosen everyone up a bit.

Me: Why are you interested in a management position?
Candidate: I like to tell people what to do.

Usually you hear a candidate talk about how much they enjoy planning, putting together a team, etc., etc. but that was the first and only time I’ve ever hears someone give that answer. The candidate lost their chance with that statement and the interview was brief as nobody was interested in asking follow up questions.

I was on the panel for an interview for a public-facing position. The candidate, who was well qualified on paper, couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. The interview ended after just a few minutes. I hope she was just having a really bad day for some reason and went on to get a far better job, but those 5 minutes were painful for everyone in the room.

I was a recruiter for the Census Bureau, conducting mini-fairs for applicants numbering a handful to a few dozen. One was at a homeless shelter. About eight showed up, neat, bright and hopeful. They asked intelligent questions, and performed well on the test. I’d be delighted to have these people on my crew. I knew none would be hired – they were ex-hookers and social victims who would neveer get their FBI clearance. One of the saddest days of my life.

Me: Why did you leave your last job?
Honest Interviewee: My boss caught me having sex with his wife and fired me.

Me: Why did you leave your last job?
Dishonest Interviewee: I had a personality conflict with co-worker.
Me: I understand, yadda, yadda, yadda. DI sounds good until I check him online, only to learn that he has assault charges from his personality conflict.

Me: Why did you leave your last job?
Not Hired Interviewee: Oh, I live in a camp trailer that I have to move around, and its hot during the day and cold at night, so I don’t sleep well and I’m always worried that the cops are going to tell me to move on and I can’t afford gas, so I couldn’t go to work and got fired for no call no show because I was finally able to sleep when I should have been at work and I didn’t set an alarm because I never get to sleep more than an hour so even though this was the fourth time, I got put on unpaid probation to have time to figure things out, but I was in Phoenix and my truck broke down so I couldn’t make the meeting and she got mad because I didn’t call, and I…

Oh, how about the one who came in for an interview wearing the same clothes she was wearing to go fishing, complete with fish blood and sucking on a Big Gulp because she had caught some sort of crud that was making her throat sore.

I was interviewing a prospective student for college
Me: So, what brings you here today?
Student: (whining) My guidance counselor made me apply to every school with early action.

I was interviewing a prospective employee
Me: Tell me something you did well in your last job.
Candidate: I signed an NDA. I’m not allowed to tell you anything about what I did.
Me: So, what skills did you use? What are you good at?
Candidate: I’m not allowed to say.

She also didn’t make eye contact and generally had poor social skills. But… Yeah, I get that you can’t tell me you worked on Apple’s new screen that will have some nifty new feature. But… You can tell me you studied methods to distribute chemical reagents. Or… I mean really, there’s got to be some level at which you can tell me what you did, and why it was different than hiding under a rock for 3 years, and why I might want to hire you.

a guy sent us a resume that mentioned his father killed himself. For some reason they wanted to interview the guy. He did not show up , I was looking forward to meeting him. This was for software developer.

Our bank was interviewing for a low-level position. Most of the applicants were a couple of years out of university. But one woman had 25+ years of experience in accounting and her most recent job had been as CFO of a moderately-sized company that manufactured farm equipment. She had only a hazy knowledge of the kind of products we worked with.

It probably wasn’t the worst job interview, but it was certainly awkward.

I kind of like that answer. But I can see how with the wrong delivery to the wrong audience it just wouldn’t work.

Two stick out - one was the one where the person just didn’t know what they were doing. On their resume, they said they had ____ skill, when asked in the meeting “how would you rate yourself from 1-10 on ____” and they said “8.” And then they couldn’t whiteboard basic questions - not even when walked through the answer. I’m not sure if they were too nervous or just didn’t know, or what. But it didn’t work.

The second was the one where I apparently became intermittently invisible during the interview. I (Black woman) was co-interviewing for a technical position with a team member (White man). I do think the information in parentheses may be relevant to the experience. My co-worker would ask a question and the interviewee would direct the answer him. I’d ask a question, and the interviewee would turn to my teammate and direct the answer at him. For some of my questions, he’d ask for clarification from my teammate (who, to his credit, didn’t answer for me). At the end when asked if there were any questions or anything he’d like to say - he directed everything at my teammate, even when I was the one who answered.

He did not get the job.

For seven of my 25 years in Thailand, I worked for a local chain of test-taking schools. A local version of, say, Kaplan, the students largely trying to go to university in the West. Mostly it taught the SAT and GRE exams but others too, for the US as well as other Western countries. The owner, a Chinese-Thai businessman who had built up the business single-handedly, was something of a quirky goofball. For example, he would dress only, and I mean only, in Versace clothing. Before the 1997 Asian financial crisis, he would travel internationally just to stock up on Versace clothing, because it was so much cheaper just about everywhere else due to heavy taxes on the stuff in Thailand. He would take along staff to bring back the clothing to Thailand, paying all expenses. I myself got free trips to Hong Kong and Japan just to return with his Versace clothing in my suitcase and pretend they were mine. Typically we staff would go on ahead, meet him at the airport in whatever country, accompany him on his Versace-buying spree for half a day, then see him back to the airport, and as a bonus we got a few free days to spend in said country before ourselves returning. A sweet deal. Fortunately, Customs never checked the sizes. Yes, I was a Versace smuggler, but there are much worse things to smuggle into and out of Thailand, believe me. After the '97 crash, prices everywhere shot up so much that he discontinued the practice, because it cost the same in Bangkok.

So anyway, he would get these wild hairs up his ass from time to time and on one occasion decided to hire only Burmese. The Thai Labor Department strictly regulates how much English-language schools can pay this or that foreign national. Americans, Brits, Aussies etc get top dollar, then there’s a sliding downward scale, and others such as Filipinos, Burmese etc can be paid much less. So the owner decided to hire all Burmese. He put an ad in the paper – this was pre-Internet – and a ton of Burmese applicants showed up, many of them with their entire family in tow. My job was test writer and academic adviser, but he tapped me to do some of the interviews. Now, Burmese do speak English, but it’s often a very flowery English with questionable grammar, akin to Indian nationals. We had a test we administered, it had misspellings and grammatical errors, all kinds of mistakes, and every interviewee was given it. The end result was not one single Burmese was hired, and the exercise was a complete waste of time. But there was this one old gentleman I still remember. He was late middle age, a very affable gent. He was unable to find even one mistake, he flunked the test handily, but he was quite cheerful about it. I pointed out to him that he scored a zero, and he just laughed and said he figured that would happen. Poor old guy. I still think about him.

And TOEFL. The TOEFL test too. That was the main one. Can’t believe I forgot it. That and its equivalent in Britain, Australia etc, but mostly TOEFL.

I was interviewing a physician for a job in primary care in one of our prisons. He presented us with a Curriculum Vitae that listed his education history beginning in Kindergarten, and when asked to tell us about his academic training and career path, he listed awards won in elementary school.

He did not get the job.

This was for a dog grooming position.

I bring my dogs with me to work. They are very well behaved, and don’t jump up on people, but will come by and sniff at them. When my dog did so, she pushed her away with her foot, almost a kick.

One of the questions I always ask is if they like dogs. She said no. She didn’t get the job, not really a good fit.

I’ve also had people pull out their phones and text in the middle of an interview. That’s a quick trip to the circular file for their application.

At the big chain bookstore:

  1. the rockabilly guy who showed up in a plain white tee with a pack of cigarettes tucked in one sleeve, I shit you not. I had to admire the chutzpah.
  2. the Irish guy who charmed the shit out of my co-interviewer. She was so excited to pass his file on to the GM! Sure, he was only going to be in the US a short time, but it was a holiday temp position anyway — and his people skills were top-notch. No one could deny that.
    So 15 minutes or so later our boss walks into the office to start her shift and says there’s a couple having sex in a car in our parking lot. “He’s a big red-headed guy” … and I started laughing.

Some years ago I was Program Director of a Top 40 radio station in a medium-sized market. A guy called me and asked for an interview. I didn’t have any on-air openings at the time, and I told him that, but he asked to come in anyway. I said OK. I should add that this guy was unemployed and had been canned from two much smaller stations.

We were a stand-alone operation (no sister stations) and was the single station owned by a small company, but we did pretty well. Our crosstown competitors were owned by larger companies that owned stations in multiple markets.

During the conversation he suddenly says he wants to be completely honest with me. He says, “I just want you to know that if there’s an opening at W— (our biggest competitor) I’m going for it. — is a great company and they treat people right.” After my head cleared, I said “Well, thank you for your honesty, and this interview is over.”

He looked at me like he was clueless as to why I wasn’t interested in hiring him. I explained it to him as I ushered him out the door. Ironically, he eventually was hired by our competitor, which fired him a few months later. They sure did treat him right.

My first job was when I was 14, bussing tables at Perkins. My mother came with me to the interview, but that’s not why I’m replying to this post. (She didn’t sit in on the interview; she was my ride!)

After I’d been there a few months and summer rolled around, they hired a guy from Saudi Arabia who was in the U.S. for that summer, and was bored. IDR why he was there, if I ever knew. Anyway, he was a prep cook who spoke excellent English but couldn’t read it, and when they mixed up pancake batter, they were supposed to put a spoonful of a very potent food coloring in with the batch, which was made in one of those big commercial mixers. Anyway, he dumped the whole package in, and the result was very bad-tasting pancakes that were approximately the color of those triangles they put on the back of farm equipment and Amish buggies, and they shattered when hit against a countertop. (Ask me how I knew that LOL) Our idiot manager made us serve them!

It was no surprise when the restaurant closed, albeit temporarily, a few months later. I had already departed for the greener pastures of Baskin-Robbins, which hired 15-year-olds.

We were interviewing an external candidate for an entry level position and he casually brought up some some volunteer charity work was involved in at his church. I don’t really like knowing what church a candidate is a part of but he’s the one who brought it up, the experience he recounted was relevant to the position, and I was comfortable knowing that we wouldn’t dwell on this and we’d move on.

Except the hiring manager went to a nearby church, she knew exactly where his church was located was because she had to pass his to get to hers, and was involved in similar charity work. So they chit chatted about that for a few minutes which culminated in her inviting him to her church. This was a difficult hiring manager to work with, she insisted candidates had 3+ years of experience for what was an entry level position, and our post-interview conversation wasn’t easy. She couldn’t grasp why it wasn’t a good idea to invite candidates to our church.

Soon after declining to hire a guy for a field position with the oilfield service company I worked for, we received a letter from him threatening to file a lawsuit claiming that I had promised him a job. Yeah, like that was going to make us change our minds.

…so did he get the job?

Naw, he showed very poor judgment by not waiting until after we hired him to behave utterly unprofessionally, like a real bookseller would.

We might have found it amusing if it wasn’t for her deadpan delivery and lack of a more thoughtful follow up. I’ve certainly joked around with potential interns at job fairs who are majoring in business management when I ask them why they want to go into management.

Not an interview situation but the same thing happened when interacting with a security guard at work. Her badge wasn’t working even after repeated efforts on my part so I called in our resident expert who just so happened to be a black woman. Our expert would ask the guard a question and the guard would look directly at me and answer. After the third time it happened our expert said, “Don’t look at him look at me. I’m the one asking the questions.”