From falling sleep prior and during the interview, to coming up with ridiculous excuses for being late or not showing up at all, employers share the worst way a candidate messed up their job interview.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
So Much Attitude!
“I became the hiring manager for a mom and pop restaurant when I was 18 years old. I looked young, and most people put me at about 16 at the time. At any rate, I’d exchanged some emails with a woman wanting to become a server. I was planning on hiring her as she had lots of experience and seemed nice. So I scheduled her an in-person interview. Keep in mind that I had never seen her in person.
The day of her interview came and I just happened to be at the hostess station when she arrived. When I greeted her, ‘Hi, welcome,’ she cut me off with what had become one of my favorite instances of self-sabotage I ever witnessed.
‘Alright, listen. I’m about to get hired here as a server. So what that means is that you, as a little hostess, are going to sit me with all the big tables and give me all the good regulars or I won’t tip you out and I’ll make your life miserable. Got it? Good. Now, run along and tell your hiring manager, [my name], that I’m here.’
I smiled back sweetly and said, ‘Actually, I’m [my name], the hiring manager. I’m sorry to have you come up here for no reason, but I’ve already filled all of our open serving positions. You have a nice day.’
There was no way I was going to hire someone with that much attitude!”
A String Of Excuses
“A colleague of mine called this guy in for an interview. He didn’t show and about two hours after he was due in, he called and said he’d been hit by a car. My colleague decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and they arranged another day. The day arrived and he didn’t turn up again. We got a call from him a while later saying he’d broken his tooth on an almond and couldn’t come as he’d had to rush to a dentist. My incredibly trusting colleague decided to try one more time another day. The guy turned up, but ruined the interview.”
Mummy Dearest To The Rescue!
“I conducted an interview with a teenage boy, which was his first interview for his first job ever. He was the legal minimum age to start working and was clearly so nervous to the point of being petrified. We always look past that especially for kids fresh to the workforce. Anywho, he was going okay for someone so nervous, until he started looking a bit green.
He asked if he could excuse himself for a moment to go to the toilet which we let him. My manager and I just gave each other a confused look when he left, but again it was the poor guy’s first interview for his first job. A few minutes later, he came back with his mother. He looked a lot better. He just smiled and sat down again without saying a word. His mum spoke up ‘Oh, I’m sorry about [Boy], he gets quite ill when he’s nervous. I hope that doesn’t put you off!’ By this point, things were getting odd but we insisted it was fine and that we understood. We thought that was all mum had to say, but nope, she sat right down and said, ‘Oh good, I hope then you don’t mind if I take over the interview, like I said he’s quite sick and I think it’s best if I answer for him.’
That was the deal breaker. We gave mum and the kid one last chance and told them it was quite alright and he was doing fine. Mum insisted she stayed. The kid just sat there all smug and happy, and mummy dearest answered every single question. We would ask the question directly to the boy, and his mum would lean in and answer for him. Needless to say, he did not get the job.”
Clearly This Is NOT The Right Job For Her
“A younger girl, around 18 years old, came in for an interview at a dog boarding and daycare center. I was desperate to hire and wasn’t getting many applications. She was an artist and seemed relatively normal, so despite the lack of any real work experience or volunteering, I invited her for a brief working interview.
First issue: she stood like a scared rabbit. Genuinely terrified of everything and trying to take up the least amount of space possible. I could overlook this since I hire a lot of first-time job kids who are shy and interviewing for the first time, but she spoke barely above a whisper. So I brought her into my office to interview. I’m a laid back interviewer, just a few questions, joke a little to try to put her at ease. She was still just TERRIFIED.
Second issue: when I asked her greatest strengths and weaknesses she stared at me blankly before saying in a nervous tone, ‘Like… punching and kicking.’ I stared in disbelief for a brief few seconds before clarifying that I meant personality wise. She STILL didn’t get it and said, ‘Uh. I can lift boxes?’
I dragged my way through the rest of the interview before giving her a tour of the rest of the kennel and connecting animal hospital. She was visibly recoiling from all the dogs I showed her, which of course was almost an automatic failure in this setting. In possibly the worst of coincidences, after going to the hospital side they were doing a necropsy on a dog that had died young under mysterious circumstances earlier that morning. I didn’t want to bring any attention to it but she pointed it out and asked, ‘Oh, are they doing surgery on that doggie?’
She could not recover after that. She was horrified the rest of the tour. I told her we went with someone with more experience in the follow-up and never heard from the poor kid again.”
One Main Qualification Of This Position
“I worked as a supervisor at an ambulance company about five years ago. We had crazy turn-over, so we were constantly hiring new EMT’s to fill open spots on the schedule. One of my (many) duties was to assist with the hiring process a few days a week.
The hiring process was as follows:
Come to the main office (HQ), take a written test, take a skills test (simulation), and then have a panel interview (HR + operations supervisor).
As an EMT on the ambulance, you should know how to map yourself and get to an address without much issue.
So this candidate (we’ll call her Ding-Dong-Diana or ‘DDD’) called our dispatch about 30 minutes before her set appointment time and was flustered. She had no idea where she was and the dispatch supervisor was trying to keep her cool while doing her best to navigate her based on a vague description of her location. I get paged over to dispatch and the supervisor filled me in. I had never met this candidate before, so without introducing myself, I took over the call.
Me: ‘Hi, I was told you’re a little turned around. I’m going to try and–‘
DDD: ‘UM, EXCUSE ME! I’M LOST AND I’M RUNNING LATE FOR MY APPOINTMENT. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!’
Me: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve alerted the interviewing team that you’re running a bit behind and–‘
DDD: ‘IT’S NOT MY FAULT! YOU GUYS DIDN’T GIVE ME THE RIGHT DIRECTIONS! I AM NOT FROM HERE! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHERE I AM GOING!?’
Me: ‘Were you given an address?’
DDD: ‘UH YES! [123 ADDRESS ST.]’
Me: ‘That’s correct.’
DDD: ‘WELL THIS IS STUPID BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM!’
Me: ‘Don’t you think as an EMT you’d be expected to know how to map yourself into situations?’
DDD: ‘UH NO! THAT’S WHY WE HAVE GPS!’
Me: ‘Not all of our ambulances have GPS.’
DDD: ‘WELL THEN I WILL USE MY PHONE!’
Me: ‘How’s that working out for you?’
About 30 minutes later, DDD came stomping in, looking sweaty and frustrated. I greeted her in the lobby.
Me: ‘Hi, welcome to [Name of Ambulance], can I help you?’
DDD: ‘I had an appointment an hour ago, but your dispatchers are stupid! They got me lost!’
Me: ‘Actually, that was me on the phone.’
Me: ‘Here at [Name of Ambulance] we hold customer service in high regard. Your attitude on the phone was inappropriate and you have been excused from the interview process.’
DDD: ‘Oh,’ she said, and left right away.”
Faking It All The Way Through
“I interviewed a sysadmin for a contract job at my office.
He interviewed great over the phone. Seemed knowledgeable. We gave the go-ahead for the contract company to bring him on.
Three weeks later, he’s moved cross country and came into the office. Something immediately seemed off about him. We got him all his accounts setup and his own PC.
A co-worker gave him a few simple tasks. The new guy said, ‘Why don’t you show me how you would do it, and I’ll take notes.’
We soon learned he doesn’t know what RDP (remote desktop protocol) is. Or ping. Or anything. All things he knew in the interview.
He had someone else phone interview instead of him.
We called the contract company and had him fired.
What was crazy to me was my coworkers were so afraid of confrontation that they continued to help this guy get his other accounts and such setup, even after they knew he was a fake, until he left for the day.”
Asleep Deprived Candidate
“Our front desk receptionist let the interviewee into the meeting room and advised her that we would be there in just a minute. Another manager and I walked in not even five minutes later, and she was asleep with her head on the desk. We just let her go, and she woke up about 40 minutes later, gathered her things and left according to the front desk.
She then contacted us about a week later saying that she was sorry for missing the interview and that she had a family emergency that prevented her from showing up.
We allowed her another interview, in which she stayed awake, and we actually ended up hiring her.
She was then terminated shortly after for multiple instances of falling asleep at her desk.”
Three Red Flags, And You’re Out!
“As new parents, we were trying to hire a nanny. The first candidate we interviewed had amazing references from previous employers, including the line ‘Mary Poppins pales in comparison.’
During the interview, we asked for example activities she liked to do with the kids. She refused – claiming proprietary secrets. Um, we’re supposed to trust you with our baby and you won’t tell us what you did while we were gone? That was the first red flag.
Then she gave us ‘advice’ for asking better questions that won’t scare away good nannies. That was the second red flag.
After concluding the increasingly awkward interview, she proceeded to randomly open closed doors to look into rooms of our home on the way out. That was the third red flag.”
Too Pushy, Too Unprofessional
“So I work for a cabinet company. A while back we were looking for an account manager to work on a mix of design and pricing projects. One of the applicants we got was a guy in Canada, now we aren’t a big company so I thought it was weird to get an out of country applicant.
We decided to call him for a phone interview out of curiosity and hand this information to HR. As it turned out his fiance was living in our city which is why he applied. HR reported that he seemed normal and we scheduled an in person for the next time he is in town.
So, we came to the day of the interview. This bit I got from the front desk person so I didn’t witness it personally. Apparently, the guy came into the office with his fiancee and told her to wait in the lobby for him. She had given him a ride, I guess? But she refused to make eye contact with the front desk girl or make conversation with her at all.
He got shown to the interview room, and the front desk person let us know he was there. The interview is conducted by our HR person, the department manager, and me as the trainer. The three of us walked in with me last in line. He jumped around the two women to shake my hand first and barely acknowledged the other two in the room. So, red flag one.
As the interview proceeded, he began to do a couple of things. One, he asked how long it will be before he took the department manager’s job. Two, he began to bash our product for not being the same as what he was used to. And three started explaining all the things we would be required to do to sponsor his visa. What is normally a 45-minute interview process took about 15 before we ended it.
He kept calling about once a week for two months asking when we were going to be starting his visa sponsorship.”
Don’t Lie On Your Resume
“I have had a few interviews with people that put down they have experience with doing something, and then when I asked them about it, they didn’t know what I was talking about.
I am not talking about anything tough either. The one that sticks out to me the most is someone applied for a job with us in IT. They put down they have experience setting up a wired and wireless network. I asked ‘I see you put down on your resume that you have networking experience, what kind of experience do you have?’ The guy said, ‘Honestly, I don’t have any networking experience.’ My co-workers asked a few more questions. At the end, he asked what he could have done to leave a better impression. I told him, ‘Honestly, don’t write something on your resume if you don’t know anything about it.'”
Is There A Hidden Candid Camera Somewhere?
“I was hiring for a senior project manager – quite a full-on role that may have required some extra work at times (for which I was always happy to compensate with time off in lieu).
A well-qualified girl came in for an interview. She hadn’t been working for several months. No big deal but worth exploring.
Her: ‘I had some problems with my last manager.’ (Red flags start waving)
Me: ‘What kind of problem?’ (I’ve had problems with managers too – both those that I have worked for and those that work for me. It’s not entirely uncommon.)
Her: ‘Well, he like wanted me to come into the office every day.’
Me: ‘Hmm. Was it a full-time job?’
Her: ‘Yes, I guess so. Would you want me to work, like, every day? Because sometimes I just wake up and want to go back to sleep again.’
Me: ‘Yes we would. And I don’t think that this role is for you.’
I wasn’t sure for a moment if I was on ‘Candid Camera,’ but she was serious.”
Pulling The Besties Card
“Several years ago, I was the head of a department at a small company. As such, my boss and I were both there for any hiring interviews conducted for my department.
One particular interview stands out in my mind. Halfway through the interview, my boss left for a few minutes to take a phone call.
While he was gone, I asked the candidate if she had any questions for me. She immediately tried to pull a besties schtick and asked things like, ‘Do they block any websites on the computers here? Like, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.?’ ‘You can text and use messenger when he’s (my boss) not around, right?’ and my personal favorite, ‘How much time do you have to spend working?’
Despite introducing myself, I think she assumed I was an assistant. At the time, I looked quite young for my age. When my boss came back, we politely wrapped up the interview. She did not get a call back from us.”
Clients Are Like Children
“Back in the day, I worked for a non-profit organization that helped adults with developmental disabilities. Not my personal passion, but a job’s a job, right? Almost everyone else was there because it was a personal passion, and I learned the basic etiquette of social work and dealing with clients.
Anyway, I got promoted to a higher position and had to hire my replacement. The executive director and I conducted interviews. Some were bad candidates, some were awkward, but one.
Boss: ‘Do you have any experience working with adults with developmental disabilities?’
Candidate: ‘Yes. My last job involved providing services at a group home.’
Boss: ‘Great! What did you like about it?’
Candidate: ‘I loved working with the clients. They are like little children!’
OK, on the list of serious ‘no-no’s, calling the clients ‘children’ or comparing them to children is a big faux pas.
My boss got quiet, his posture changed, his expression darkened. The candidate had no clue. My boss started speeding through the interview questions after that.
Boss: ‘What would you describe as your biggest weakness?’
Candidate: ‘Oh, I don’t have any.’
Boss: ‘Why should we hire you over other candidates?’
Candidate: ‘I am the best candidate. I am hard working and the right person.’
Boss: ‘Do you have any questions for us?’
Boss: ‘Thank you for coming in. Goodbye.'”
At Least He Was Honest About It
“Probably the worst interview I had on the interviewing side was when we had a guy come in for a developer role. The company didn’t do any pretesting before inviting people into the office. So there was a quick chat, a tech test, and then a proper chat.
So the guy who came in was a former IT manager. I looked at his original answers to the quick questionnaire they’re given before coming in and he was talking about having systems handle 50 requests per hour, which is kind of a sign that he wasn’t used to proper development.
So we had the quick chat with him and left him in the room with the tech test. He came out 10 minutes later or so asking to talk to my manager who was also interviewing. He then left. My manager explained that he looked at the test and realized it was a bit out of his level. So after five minutes or so, I went into the room to get the tech test to see how badly he did. He took the tech test with him. The recruiter who sent him was trying to get him back in for another interview because maybe he was just nervous. My manager was sitting there going, but how are we going to tech test him? He took the test with him, he could have just left and Googled all the answers. The recruiter said he was trying to talk the guy into coming back and would let us know.
The guy was straight up. He didn’t come back.”
Representations Of Her Many Personalities
“A long time ago, I worked as a supervisor in a theme park. We were interviewing people to work as face painters- people who would be working with children and guests and would be expected to be a little more personable than your typical gift shop clerk.
Part of the interview process was that the interviewee would need to bring in an art portfolio to prove they could in fact draw.
This girl brought in a HUGE binder, just bulging with art. Good art too! Oils, chalk, charcoal, pen, Prisma, and watercolor. She had it all and in spades.
The issue? They were all of her. Every single one. I get it, self-portraits aren’t unusual for an artist. But this was something of an obsessive caliber. No trees, skulls, flowers, swirly dos or ‘Doctor Who’ fanart. It was just her face, 1,000 times over.
Her spoken interview was fairly narcissistic too. She told us proudly she worked better alone and hated to socialize. Maybe she forgot what job she was trying to apply for?
I decided if I saw ONE piece of art that was not of her, I would hire her. She was talented. As I was going through her artwork, I found this at the bottom of the stack: A drawing of a whole group of people! Differently colored, faceless silhouettes of what must have been her friends.
Or so I thought until she corrected me. They were all just representations of her different personalities.
Much to my bosses dismay, I didn’t hire her.”