Hiring managers go through quite a lot when they go on a hunt for the ideal job candidate to fill a position with their company. They have to go through dozens of resumes and cover letters, schedule time to meet with the people who made it to the next stage and then make a decision on who they feel is best suited for the role.
That process, however, can hit a snag or two along the way, and the people who they thought could potentially become the next great member of their team, don't make it past the first face-to-face meeting. The hiring managers, human resources personnel, and business owners in the following stories all recently shared their best (or worst) interview horror stories with Reddit, and they're worth the read. All of the posts have been edited for the sake of clarity, so go ahead and give them a read.
I Don’t Think They’ll Have To Worry About That
“Most memorable interview I’ve conducted was for an inbound call center customer service position:
We greet the girl, early 20s, white, dressed like a valley girl, and she has an entourage with her. Four people show up to sit in our lobby while this girl interviews. Not really a red flag, but weird.
The next weird thing I notice is she’s hobbled like a newborn giraffe. She says she twisted her ankle earlier that week. I think to myself, ‘Okay, maybe four-inch heels weren’t the best choice there.’ Again, nothing to rule her out, just weird.
Then the interview. Her only work history was for a vet clinic as a receptionist. We ask her typical questions like, ‘Tell us about a time you gave great customer service,’ and ‘What would you do if you didn’t know the answer to a customer’s question.’ Pretty normal stuff.
Any time she gives an example, it is about how she’s worked with animals and how the animals appreciated her. She is applying for a customer service position, one where you talk to PEOPLE, and her answers are all about how she’ll make sure the dogs are happy. Nothing about actually dealing with people. It is like pulling teeth trying to get a reasonable answer out of her.
We conclude the interview and are leaning towards a ‘No.’ As we are signing her out, she turns to the other interviewer (who is an African-American female) and says out of the blue:
Interviewee: ‘Just so you know, I’m like, SO, against prejudice!’
Co-worker: ‘Uh, okay… How do you mean?’
Interviewee: ‘I’m just like, so against it. If a customer is problematic to me, I will hang up. I do not tolerate it.’
Co-worker: ‘I don’t really understand how that would apply here.’
Interviewee: ‘My grandma is a quarter Puerto Rican, and if someone tries to be prejudiced towards me because of it, I will hang up.’
Co-worker: ‘I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.’
Needless to say, she didn’t get hired.”
Is It A Good Idea To Break The Law Like That?
“He told me that he’d do anything for us if he got the job, even if it was illegal. That was a major red flag. If he hadn’t said it, he probably would’ve been in the running for the job, too.
Another guy kept stopping to answer his phone during the interview. Once, okay. He forgot to turn it off. But he just left it on and kept texting his friend. He also said he liked to solve problems through brainstorming, and that he’d find ways not to work overtime even if there was an emergency. When asked about his work experience, he just talked about how his role in projects was to make himself the delegator. The guy really didn’t want to work.
Then there was the gal who tossed her head and said, ‘You know, you think you’re interviewing me, but I’m the one interviewing you! And this job is beneath me. Call me when you have something good available.’
You wouldn’t believe the bad applicants that somehow make it into interviews.”
A Lack Of “Self-Awareness” Will Get You Every Time
“I’m a supervisor in an office. My particular team works in Social Media.
A girl came in and explained that she was a good fit for social media because she was a ‘teen.’ She was in her early 20s. She couldn’t even explain the difference between Facebook and Twitter.
She had been job hopping for the past year, which was the entirety of her job history. She never worked anywhere for more than three months.
I was at a no with all of this, but as some icing on the cake, she was wearing a form-fitting dress that came down about a quarter of the way down her thighs. We were sitting in chairs with no table or desk between us. At no point did she make an attempt to keep her legs closed.
After conferring with my boss, we made a note that she ‘lacked self-awareness’ and left it at that.”
He Should Have Been More Aware Of The Room Before This Comment
“I recently had an interviewee who was a man, mid-50s. His interview was with two women. They got about three questions in when they stopped the interview.
Apparently, they asked him a question about how he handles customer conflict (we are a customer service company and he had customer service experience). He said he ‘didn’t tolerate difficult customers,’ and would ‘kick them out of the store.’
Then they asked him about handling employee conflict, and he said something along the lines of, ‘Well, you have to handle conflict with women differently because they are more emotional and have trouble understanding more complicated concepts. I left my last job because they hired too many women, and I couldn’t stand working with them.’ He said this to two women.
So clearly this guy had no social awareness or concept of what was appropriate. You just don’t do that. I would have loved to be there for that interview, but it wasn’t in my own department. I just got to hear about it later from the women that interviewed him.”
I Guess This Makes Interview 39
“The interview went pretty well until I asked, ‘So, what are you looking to get out of this job? What’s important to you in a work environment?’
And he responded: ‘Well, I just really want to work in a place with a bunch of friends. Hanging out during work. After work. Going on company trips. Playing video games. Just all of us having a good time. Hanging out. Being friends. I really hope I get this job. I’ve been to 38 interviews so far this year. I don’t understand why no one will hire me. They like my resume. But for some reason after the interview, they don’t hire me. Do people not want a new friend? I don’t get it. I’d be such a good employee. People can tell me anything. I’m a hard worker. I’m always there for people. So what do you like to do for fun? Do you go anywhere? Do you guys all like hang out after work? Get a drink or something? Am I rambling? I feel like I’m rambling? But 38 interviews? Can you believe that?’
It went on for a while. I didn’t hire him. But I called him to tell him this, and normally I don’t tell people why I didn’t hire them for liability reasons, but I felt so bad this dude had been to 38 different interviews over the previous nine months I decided I’d let him know that maybe if he kept it professional and didn’t word vomit desperation so much it would go a little smoother for him. That conversation went like this:
Me: ‘Hey, we decided to go a different direction with the position, but I was wondering, if you have a few minutes, I’d like to talk to you about the interview and maybe give you some advice on the process.’
Him: ‘No way, man, not interested. I’m good. Some people just aren’t into meeting new people and gaining new friends. We’re done here [click].’
I made the right choice.”
People Should Dress For The Job They Want…
“When I was around 21, I was managing a small department for the provincial government that looked after palliative patients. At this time, we were low on resources, so I didn’t have someone to do a pre-interview or a short phone interview prior to meeting the candidates.
Sometimes when people were really bad (I’m talking like being 20 minutes late showing up with fast food in hand talking about how they need a ‘good government job,’ spitting out their beverage in disbelief when they saw a petite, young woman was going to be the manager, all kinds of gems like that), I would just ask them hypothetical questions based on well-known movies. Essentially, it was just something to run out the clock so if someone ever did follow up with them, I did indeed interview them.
One time, I had a woman in her early 30s show up for an interview wearing super low rise light blue jeans and a pink spaghetti strap tank top so small I could see her belly button piercing. I tried to nonchalantly ask her if she brought a copy of her resume and she shimmied a crumpled resume out of her back jean pocket and handed it to me. Her face had white eyeshadow that had been applied very liberally – cheeks full of glitter and she smelled of heavy perfume. I looked at it, then at her and said: ‘I’m going to give you an opportunity here. I am going to say something that is going to be difficult to hear, but if you do it – I will interview you and you might get this job – and you will do better at every job interview you attend after today. This is a government job, it is very conservative. Do you have dress pants, skirt or a blouse or sweater, a t-shirt or top that may match the dress skirt or pants? Maybe a dress? Do you have anything like that at home?’
I paused and she stared at me as I continued: ‘If you don’t have access to those things – that is okay, we can set up a phone interview, but I think you should come back tomorrow, prepared and ready to make a better impression. Does that sound okay?’
She called me a nasty name and threatened to file a complaint about me. She never followed through. I was half hoping she maybe would think about what I said and come back the next day or week so I could interview her but she never did – so obviously she did not get the job.”
“Pro Tip: Don’t Lie On Your Resume”
“I interviewed a guy who said he was a web design/development professional, and his resume was ‘impressive,’ according to our HR department.
He did okay on the questions, so I handed him a printed sheet of some simple HTML printed on it (some text, a few divs here and there, the CSS was basically just colors and text sizing) and a blank piece of paper and some colored pencils.
He was then asked to draw (approximately) what the code would look like in any modern browser.
He looked far too confused and baffled at the paper for a few moments, then he just randomly drew something he made up (which wasn’t even close).
I just stopped him about four lines in and thanked him for his time. The next guy in the door didn’t have as nearly an impressive of a resume, but he nailed every question, and the ‘draw it!’ test without a problem.
Pro tip: Don’t lie on your resume.”
Most People Want A Job For Money, Not World Domination
“A lot of interviewees hate the question, ‘Why do you want to work here?’
After all, the honest answer is usually ‘Because things cost money, and I want some of that.’
The thing is, that question isn’t actually about learning an applicant’s specific desires. Sure, they might very well have reasons (beyond money) for being genuinely excited about the job or the company, but the real motivation behind the inquiry is just to see how it gets answered. If the person has a prepared response, that’s often a point in their favor. If they’ve done their research, that will also help them along.
On the other hand, if a person starts informing you of their plan for world domination, it probably won’t end well.
I’ll confess right away that I wasn’t actually the hiring manager in this instance; I was just one of the team members who was helping with the interview process. The applicant in question was a young man who had a rather overinflated idea of exactly how impressive his previous accomplishments were, and who seemed to believe that he was some kind of revolutionary in the making. When I asked him why he wanted to work at the company — a video game development studio — he gave me a long, grave, and steady stare (or at least, what he probably imagined to be one), then began speaking.
‘This is,’ the fellow said, ‘the third step in my path. I’ve already developed my reputation, and now, I’ll position myself to start making an impact. I will produce the most ground-breaking game the world has ever seen. I’ll buy the company with the money I make, then start buying other companies. I’ll use all of that influence to get a big piece of land, and I’ll start my own country.’
There was a lot more to it than that, but I’ll spare you all of the specifics. Suffice to say, the guy continued to speak for more than a few minutes, taking me on a pipe-dream-like journey that eventually brought us to a destination somewhere between The Matrix and Narnia. Don’t get me wrong, his proposed utopia — which was supposedly going to be set in a purely virtual world — sounded like a great concept for a science fiction novel, but it really wasn’t the best answer for why the young man was interested in the job.
Honestly, he should have just said that he wanted the money.”
Everyone Had To Pay For This Guy’s Mistakes
“He was late. Not very late but late enough. We had a ton of interviews scheduled for the position, and even one late arrival was going to push us back, and probably make the boss want to do group interviews which are the worst thing in the world to conduct.
He didn’t apologize for being late. He didn’t explain why he was late, even just a, ‘Hey, how about that traffic,’ comment that would have been welcome. He didn’t shake my hand but shook all of the men’s hands in the room before sitting down.
It was clear that despite me asking him questions, he thought I was some kind of talking decoration and would only address the men in the room. He wasn’t an old guy either, he wasn’t much older than me! So we have this disaster interview where the last question was, ‘Do you have any questions that you’d like to ask?’
He replied: ‘No. Oh by the way, yes I can start Monday.’
I threw his resume away before he even made the elevator. My boss and her head of department both went, ‘That was a waste of everyone’s time. Group interviews tomorrow.'”
He Was Going To Get The Job Until…
“When I was leaving one of my past roles (in HR), my boss told me that if I could find someone half as good as me, he’d be happy (quoting him, not bragging). I took this responsibility very seriously because I loved my team and wouldn’t leave them with just about anyone.
I interviewed this one guy, among many others, and the interview went spectacularly. The drama began right after. As soon as the guy left, we knew we’d be offering him the position but decided to wait until the next day to ask him for references.
The guy left the interview, found some mutual acquaintances and somehow got my number. A couple of hours later, he called me, wanting to take me out on a date. He kept saying he was in my area (super creepy).
Needless to say, he didn’t get the job and was banned from ever applying to my organization.”
They Had Enough Of This “Uncredited Consultant”
“A few years back, I had the misfortune of interviewing a fellow for a role in a film shoot. Although the production technically had a Human Resources professional in charge of screening résumés, they were far better versed in the recruiting process than they were in what qualifications were necessary for the job. As a result, less than half an hour before I was supposed to meet with the man in question, I was handed a document that would have made most pathological liars blush.
According to the résumé, my interviewee had been an ‘uncredited consultant’ on over a hundred feature films. While there certainly are cases in which a given worker goes uncredited — it has even happened to me — the sheer magnitude of the fellow’s claim went well beyond the realm of believability. Furthermore, the guy had listed quite a few alleged skills that seemed to suggest a less-than-complete knowledge of the industry.
My favorite claim was that he had ‘expert-level apple box skills.’
For the record, an ‘apple box’ is literally a wooden box. That’s it. There are a few different sizes, and they’re used whenever something needs to be stacked on top of a box.
I went ahead with the interview anyway, if only because I was curious about how the guy would back up his various claims. He turned out to be maybe 20 years old, which was far too young to have worked on many of the films that he had listed. When pressed, he explained that he had ‘consulted’ on each of them by writing letters to the people involved in the productions, in which he outlined several suggestions on various things.
Suffice to say, he didn’t get the job… though I’m certain that he listed himself as an ‘uncredited consultant’ on it, simply because he attended the interview.”
Was She A Little Too Critical?
“One of my coworkers and I interviewed a candidate for a technical consulting position. We asked her about some of the past experience listed on her resume, and we were going through highlights and lowlights of her projects.
She keyed in on a system she used while working as an intern for a large company, and started telling us about it. It turns out it was a system that my coworker, who was sitting right next to me, had designed and helped build. He is one of the smartest and most talented guys I know, and I knew all about the system in question, which was actually a big success.
This was going to be fun.
She started bashing it like crazy, way more colorfully and critically than I was expecting, and I couldn’t help but make over-the-top comments to jab at my buddy, glancing at him every now and then to see his face.
Her: ‘It is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for over a decade.’
Me: ‘Wow – what kind of complete idiot must have thought of that?’
Her: ‘I can’t believe people pay good money and get junk like that in return!’
Me: ‘No kidding! There are some real losers running around out there, huh?’
He kept his composure the whole time like the pro he is. We skipped the rest of the interview rounds with her and didn’t extend an offer.
The moral of the story: it’s ok to be able to make critical remarks, but do so with care, because you don’t always know the experience of the people to whom you’re speaking.”
This Is NOT How People Handle Themselves During An Interview
“I was interviewing a candidate for a Business Analyst position. This was a phone-screen, intended to decide whether the candidate is worth bringing in to meet in-person.
I asked him about a couple of different concepts but got a feeling he didn’t understand the difference. When I pressed him on it, he responded: ‘Well, if you’re going to be rude about it, I don’t want to work for you anyway!’ End of interview. I don’t remember the specific question he flamed out on, but it shouldn’t have been an issue for anyone with the experience he claimed.
Now, another colleague was sitting in, and we both agreed that it wasn’t a bad question.
For his outburst though, I blacklisted him with my company HR, and reamed the recruiting company rep who presented him.”
“No One Wants To Work With A Someone Like That”
“I work for a city and when we give interviews, there is a list of question that we ask. We can only ask those questions. At the beginning of the interview, we hand the applicant a copy of these questions so he/she can follow along if needed. Every interview is the same this way. It’s the city’s way of making things fair.
The two most common ways of sabotaging yourself in an interview are:
Answering questions we didn’t ask. We get that you are nervous but take your time. A lot of people will start to answer a question, then veer off towards some unrelated subject for 10 minutes. If you feel yourself doing this, just stop and reset. Most interviewers will actually view this as a positive.
Arrogance. Maybe they are trying to impress? I don’t know, but it comes off horrible. Answering questions like, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ with, ‘Anywhere I want. I’m very ambitious and when I want something I do whatever it takes to get it.’
Or, ‘How does this position fit in with your career path?’ with, ‘Perfectly, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.’
Both make you sound like an idiot. No one wants to work with someone like that.”