Interviewing for a job can be a stressful experience for everyone involved, but especially for those being interviewed. No matter how much you prepare, there are questions you might not know the answers to or a circumstance you've never experienced. But for employers, what makes a truly awkward interview? What sticks out in their mind for years? We took to Reddit to find out just this, and the stories we've found are truly cringe-worthy. Content has been edited for clarity.
Bringing His Kid To The Interview Wasn’t The Worst Part
“One of my old bosses had a middle-aged gentleman not only show up late because he was riding the bus but also brought his not well-behaved young kid.
My boss was being super nice and tried to proceed with the interview with a toddler running around the office until the interviewee said, ‘Hang on, my kid is hungry,’ produced a bag of goldfish crackers from his pocket, and then SPRINKLED THEM ALL OVER THE FLOOR FOR THE KID TO GOBBLE UP LIKE A LITERAL ANIMAL.
He told me it took everything in him not to crack up. He thanked goldfish man for his time and sent him on his way. He didn’t get the job.”
Simple Math Isn’t So Easy
“We used to ask a math question as part of the beginning of our interviews. It was always something relatively simple like, ‘What is 60% of 300?’ We asked this exact question to a candidate, and she paused. No, a pause lasts for a few seconds. She stopped. A minute went by, and then another passed. After a while, I told her that it didn’t matter and that she could just guess. She declined. No, declining would imply that she said anything at all. Instead, she stared down at her fingers for another four minutes.
At this point, my peer and I are on the verge of laughing. I’m not exaggerating, it was actually around seven minutes that felt like an eternity. When I was digging my nails into my thigh so that I would not smile, she looked up. She stared me straight in the eyes and said ’57 dollars.’
Never once was this a question about money.
She did not get the job.”
A Job For Life
“I was a general manager for a Chick-Fil-A for a while.
This 19-year-old kid walks into the restaurant for an interview. He seems nice enough and the interview was good, so I offered him a job on the spot. He broke down in tears. At first, I thought he was overly ecstatic and was merely happy crying. This was odd but some people are desperate. He kept crying and didn’t seem pleased, so I thought maybe the stress level of the interview was high, and he was relief/stress crying. Nope. This kid was extremely upset.
Apparently, his parents gave him an ultimatum to get a job, or leave the house. But working fast food wasn’t what he wanted to do for his whole life. He had an interview later that day at some game/video store in town. That was his dream job. This seems like it would be no big deal, but after consoling him for five minutes, I realized he believed that once I offered him the job he was forced to accept and begin working immediately. It seemed like he felt he was supposed to be fine working at a Chick-Fil-A for the next 40 years until he retired, and that he had no choice in the matter.
I asked if his parents told him he had to accept the first offer, or if they were forcing him to keep a job for a few years for a steady job history. Nope. He just really had no idea that people changed jobs. Both parents only ever talked about working in one place, so he assumed where you got your first job was also where you retired from.
He took the job after he didn’t get the other one. I just told him to go home and call within three days if we were the job he decided on. He didn’t last long with us. Much too lazy and came in messed up too often.”
Not Your Homeboy
“I was the assistant manager and had to interview someone. The dude comes in in regular clothes and starts talking to me like I’m his homeboy. That was the first clue. I ask him one of the behavioral questions, and he fails terribly. Clue #2. It was something simple like, ‘if a customer has an issue about a return and you cannot do the return, what do you do?’ The right answer would have been to ask another employee or manager for help. That simple. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something stupid like ‘tell them to blow off and go on break so they can’t yell at you.’ Then, his phone rings, he takes it out of his pocket, looks at it, and then just holds it in his hand.
I looked at him and asked nicely, as not to assume anything, ‘is that important?’
And he says ‘Nah,’ and it continues to ring. Right there I wanted to stop the interview.
I told him I’d be right back, told my boss what was going on, and she laughed and just told me to finish the interview. I went back and picked back up. I asked if he was ready for the next question. He says yea. I begin to ask and I’m reading from the paper since we were supposed to ask it word for word with no deviation. I look up when done reading it, and he’s texting, so he didn’t even hear me. At this point I was getting mad, so I just dropped the paper and asked why he thinks he should have the job. I got an idiotic answer along the lines of, ‘I don’t know man, I just want to do something different. I like my current job, but I…I don’t know. I didn’t really think about it.’ He then proceeds to tell me his insane availability. It was pretty much that he’d like to drop in whenever he felt like. So I said, ‘okay, we’ll let you know if you got it.’
Now, let me preface this. I already hated my job, and my manager was worthless, never showed up to work, never actually ‘managed’ anyone, the employees made their own schedule, she kissed their butts, she was just a terrible manager. So I go back to her and tell her he’s terrible and I would never hire him to cut my toenails, let alone this job. She tells me we’re going to hire him anyway because we need people. I said, ‘No, he was disrespectful and stupid.’
She laughs like she knows something I don’t. I was mad, so I asked, ‘What is so funny?’
She said he was one of the shift lead’s baby daddy. I said, ‘Let me get this straight. You want me to hire someone who not only failed the pre-test (that you take on the computer), then failed the interview miserably, and can’t work when we need him, AND he has a kid with someone who will inevitably be his boss, which is completely against company rules, let alone immoral?’ NOPE. I quit a week later.”
Caught In The Spider’s Web
“This girl came in with facial tattoos, one of a spider web on her chin, and a couple of others I couldn’t really identify. The interview was just for a server position.
I hired her because she had a good resume and was personable enough.
On her third day, she just didn’t show up. She came in about two hours later wasted and asked why we called in someone else. She called me obscenities and I told her she’s no longer employed.
She literally came in two weeks later with her resume, like she didn’t know she’d been fired. No one told me it was the same girl and I sat down with her, I was surprised as heck and told her she’d been fired before and it wasn’t an option to rehire her, she literally did not remember working there for a few days or meeting me or anyone else at the restaurant.
It was incredibly awkward because she cried for about five minutes right in front of me.
About a month later, a co-worker said she saw her (kinda hard to hide the tattoo) with a sign outside of a freeway asking for money.
I still feel bad, but, c’mon not showing up and being wasted on your third day?”
Maybe She Needs Therapy
“An applicant for our psychologist position had a decent resume but required a phone interview as she lived in a different state. The phone interview was rife with audio problems – her answers were interrupted by loud rushing noises that sounded like water, and she seemed distracted. Halfway through the interview, she asked if we could call back later.
It turned out she was walking along the beach shore, collecting seashells. As the sun was setting in the horizon, the ocean allegedly looked so beautiful that she felt compelled to stop and take photos.”
“We had a 120-day probationary period that ended with an illicit substances test. If this all went well you got free and legitimately certified, skilled training for four years and had maybe 15 companies in the city you could go right to work for. If you failed the test, you were fired on the spot. We would make sure people knew this.
I got a call about this 19-year-old’s positive test results and have his supervisor send him in. He thinks he’s getting hired on, comes in happy and excited, shaking my hand.
I told him that I have some bad news, he did not pass his test, and he is being terminated and cannot reapply to us or any of the other companies in the organization.
He was shocked. He asked a few questions. I provided him with information about possible treatment, he begins crying. His mom is a counselor he said, she’s going to kill him, he’s had problems, he needs this. I start to feel bad, he was a good kid and a great worker.
We talk through it. Eventually, he stands up to leave and says, ‘How long does weed stay in your system? I quit smoking two months ago for nothing apparently.’
I inform him the positive was for coke.
‘Oh. OH! That was this weekend! It doesn’t count IT’S AFTER my probation period!'”
Completely Unqualified For The Job
“I was the interviewee in this situation.
I was applying for a city government job that I wasn’t fully qualified for. I knew this, but I knew the head of the department. So, that got me the in. I also took the initiative to pre-take several qualifying exams and get myself certified in some areas of the job. So, with my bit of nepotism and initiative, I managed to make it to the final round of interviews. It was down to two people. I expected another get to know you type interview that I always do well with because I’m fairly personable and put off a trusting vibe.
Well, this interview wasn’t like that. My first surprise was seeing the number of people waiting to interview me. The mayor, the fire chief, the police chief, and the heads of all the other major departments were there. The next surprise came when they started taking turns asking very technical questions involving many different areas of expertise. I could only answer about one out of every ten questions. The interview lasted for two hours. I still wish after 10 minutes, I had just politely acknowledged what we all knew…that I was unqualified and apologized for wasting their time. At least then I could have saved some face. I still get embarrassed thinking about this today…well over a decade later.”
A Messy Interview
“The interviewee and I were sitting in a boardroom type conference room. He was sitting across the table from me. This guy was maybe mid 50’s (I am 28) and looked like he was having a rough morning. It was mainly how his shirt looked and his hair a little messy. After I asked him one of my questions in my interview packet, he was mid-sentence when his phone in his pocket started going off.
The ringtone was of a woman moaning and screaming, ‘Oh yeaaaa baby’. I was a little in shock, thinking to myself, ‘is this really happening?’ I was looking at him then at his pocket then back at him and back at his pocket. Meanwhile, he kept on answering my question like nothing is going on. Needless to say, I did not hire him.”
Big Fat Liar
“I’m a motion picture property master. I interviewed someone relatively new in town to be my on-set assistant propmaster (a position sometimes credited as ‘standby props’). He boasted that he had been the standby propman for a big sci-fi feature with a $100 million+ budget.
I asked him who his propmaster had been. He gave me a name I recognized as someone from another city who occasionally came to do cheap tv movies when things were slow on his own patch, but who had never done features.
I then informed the applicant that I had actually been the property master on that sci-fi feature, and that as he and I had never met, it was unlikely that he had been the standby propman. Then I invited him to leave my office, and to make sure I never, ever saw his face again.
So I guess that would qualify as his most awkward interview, if not exactly mine.
Later, I spoke to my actual assistant on that feature. He recalled the name and indicated he had been dispatched by the union when we requested a few extra hands for a week. But he had proven so inept and clueless that he had been dismissed early on his second day. Clearly, he hadn’t learned much about professional conduct during the intervening year. I don’t know if he left the business or not, but I haven’t run across him again.”
“I was regrettably a McDonald’s manager for a few years. We were short-staffed so to cover a worker’s break, I was on a register. While taking a customer’s order, a young man approached us, walked straight up to the counter and attempted to wedge himself between the customer and me.
‘I’m uh, here for an interview.’
Not only had he made an uncomfortable and rude intrusion on a customer, but he was also wearing a wife beater with pants slung below his butt cheeks and boxers hanging out. My response was, ‘no, you’re not.'”
“I interviewed a guy in his mid-50s for a director position. He kept telling me how he was the best, how he would turn this place around, and just kept rambling on about it. He was also chugging Tic-Tacs like his life depended on it and I found that kinda weird. And then the smell hit me.
The man wasn’t just wasted, no, he smelled like a freaking distillery. I kept the guy busy while my colleague walked up to the CTO who was to interview him next. From what I heard, he told the CTO that the guy we were interviewing had been drinking and this would be a no-no, but the CTO didn’t believe him at first and came anyway. He told me later that he thought the room smelled like Listerine and only later put one and one together when he saw the interviewee was still chugging Tic-Tacs.
The kicker came when the man told us, fifteen minutes into the interview, that he needed to leave and come back; his meter was about to run out and he needed to refill… not only was he impaired while interviewing, but while driving as well. Suffice to say, we went with someone else.”
Can’t Speak For Himself
“I was hiring a skilled tradesman position. One applicant was apparently a very recent immigrant from South America, but his wife had lived in America for a few years and was already well assimilated.
The man, however, was completely overwhelmed, and literally shrank behind his wife like a little kid as she answered questions for him. She appeared to be nearing the end of her rope with the situation.
It was obvious that he was bombing the interview, and she left literally stomping, with him meekly following, shoulders stooped and hands clasped, running with these double-time baby steps to keep up with her disappearing back.
Not the worst interview I’ve conducted, but definitely the most awkward.”
Really Into Gaming
“I was phone screening an art candidate for a video game project. The recruiter had sent me a fine looking resume, which included ten years of modeling, texturing, rigging, and animating experience. On the candidate’s website, he had some pretty good dragon-type creatures, so I called him up.
I started the interview by asking the candidate about the last project he worked on. He said he made wyverns for the game Second Life. I asked him to tell me about that project. He proceeded to excitedly launch into a description of the different types of wyverns and their relationships to each other in wyvern society. Apparently, one wyvern named Bob was a monster until you get to know him? But this wyvern lover was very friendly and outgoing.
I explained that I wanted to know about his last job – could he talk about his artistic process or what he learned or what he would want to do differently on a future project? But he couldn’t seem to switch away from explaining his wyvern characters. He kept going on about all their backstories.
I eventually got him to explain that all his projects over the past ten years related exclusively to these wyvern Second Life characters. When I verified that he had never worked as an employee for a paying company, he explained that he hated corporations and would never agree to work for one.
I told him that this interview was for a job as an artist at a corporation. He proceeded to politely tell me he was no longer interested.”
If You Can’t Take The Heat…
“I’m a retired cop. We had one young 21-year-old kid who just finished the academy and on his first day of field training, he was interviewing a 20-year-old attractive girl who had an inappropriate relationship with a minor boy. While she was giving the details of the act they did, he passed out.
It turns out he was raised in a very strict Mormon family and was very, very sheltered. He never even kissed a girl and was super nervous hearing an attractive chick tell him how a kid six years his younger had relations.
He was let go a few days later. He was oddly naive to the real world and NOT street smart. He would have been killed out there.”
The Wrong Kind Of Referral
“I was doing some hiring for a restaurant that serves things like wraps, bowls, soups, and salads. It’s branded as healthy fast food. The CEO is fairly young and the vibe they go for is fresh, fast, and healthy.
Anyway, a regular customer says she has the perfect prospective employee for us, so I set up the interview. The guy shows up wearing poorly fitting sweatpants and a stained t-shirt. He absolutely reeked of smoke and was probably 50-75 lbs overweight.
It wasn’t exactly the image our restaurant was trying to portray, but we did the interview anyway. I’m pretty sure he was just doing it to say to the government that he’s tried to find work because even though this was a job almost anyone could do, I didn’t get the impression he could do it. The most awkward part was when the regular customer came in asking why we didn’t hire him.”