Interviews are stressful enough as it is, and sometimes, that can cause interviewees to say or do some pretty weird things! This can lead to some pretty interesting conversations, and even more interesting reactions. Just ask these people!
People on Quora share the wildest thing they said during a job interview. Content has been edited for clarity.
The Big-Wig Did Not Expect That
“During a job interview in the courtyard of a swanky Washington, D.C. hotel with one of the world’s biggest media holding companies, I was asked a pointed and probing question, ‘What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever written?’
It was the very first question asked by the very experienced marketing executive who had built one of Aegis Media’s many agencies from scratch. He asked with such confidence and directness that he leaned back to watch me twist and turn while I tried to come up with the perfect answer.
I had never been asked this question before, and so my lightning-quick answer surprised both of us.
‘My brother’s obituary,’ I said.
The executive, I think, suspected me to struggle with the answer.
At the very least, he probably thought I’d talk about something from my background in the world of experiential marketing, theme parks, and museum exhibits. This advertising executive was a man’s man, and so he probably thought I might talk about the concepts I wrote for the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor or the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame at the renovated Lambeau Field.
Curious by my quick answer, this agency big wig leaned forward and quietly said with sadness, Your brother’s obituary.’
On Tuesday, July 16, 2002, my brother, Stuart, agreed to load up a gyroplane with bags of candy and fly to a church party where he and another dad would drop Twizzlers, Starbursts, and LifeSavers to a throng of happy children.
Seconds after taking off from Utah’s Ogden-Hinckley Airport at 6:15 p.m., the gyroplane’s rotor fluttered in a wind gust, hit the tail, shattered into pieces, and then the entire flying contraption dropped 400 feet like a brick, bursting into flames when hitting the runway. Both my brother and his passenger, Corry Clarke, died instantly.
I lived across the country and was unable to immediately hug and console my parents and siblings. Instead, I volunteered to write the obituary. Considering that I am the only professional writer in the family, I was certainly the logical choice as well.
I sat down at my desk, wiped away a lot of tears, and began to write. Surprisingly, the obituary was one of the easiest things I had ever written. I simply thought about my brother, what he loved, how he died and started writing.
Needless to say, this answer about my brother’s obituary shut the big wig executive right up and I got the job.”
He Didn’t Think He Would See Her There!
“My boss’s name will be ‘Ben’ for privacy purposes.
I went into a building awaiting my interview for a high-paying job that I knew I was highly unlikely to get. It was roughly 9:00 am when he brought me into his office to commence the really awkward meeting. He started asking me questions about ‘where I’ve worked before,’ and ‘how I would be an asset to their company,’ just the generic, basic questions everyone is asked. He was about to release me when I hear this lady burst through the door with this rage that I could only assume was backed by Jack Torrance. As I stayed faced forward and not wanting to get involved, I hear her say in an all too familiar voice
Woman: ‘BEN, I WANT A DIVORCE NOW!!’
Ben: ‘I’m in the middle of a meeting, let me finish and we will talk.’
Woman: ‘NO WE CAN TALK RIGHT NOW.’
Her voice was so uncanny that I absolutely HAD to turn around. Our eyes locked and she instantly shut up, by that time my face was super red and she was really embarrassed. Well, Ben was having none of it and was extremely confused.
Woman: ‘insert my name here) What are you doing here?’
Me: ‘Interviewing for a job’
Ben: ‘What is going on?’
Woman: ‘He’s the reason I want a divorce.’
Turns out the lady I had sleeping with day in and day out was my future employer’s wife. Apparently, they have been seeing other people for a while and neither one of them had enough courage to end it. I did end up getting the job (obviously) and we are really great friends. I no longer see that woman and he has a new wife.”
Learning A Valuable Life Lesson
“I had been trying to get a job in finance for a few months and was having trouble. A Sociology major in college, I hadn’t decided until after recruiting had passed during my Senior year that I wanted to work in Sales and Trading. After graduation, I moved to NYC to find a job in the industry and ended up finding an internship on a trading floor in Boston and moved there for a few months. During that time, I continued to network to find a job in NYC because it’s where I had dreamed of being.
Somewhere along the line, I managed to get the contact information for a Managing Partner (basically the highest rank you can hold) at one of the most selective banks in the world. Let’s call that bank ‘Soldman Gachs.’ I made several strikes from the beginning, such as: I emailed him letting him know when I was available (any Friday), instead of asking him when it was convenient for him, and I did not tell him how I got his contact information.
I didn’t hear back from him, so I followed up a few more times. Finally, his assistant responded and said I could come and meet with him. Early that morning, I got on the Chinatown bus in Boston and went to NYC to meet with him. He cancelled at the last minute when I was already in the city.
This happened about 4 more times. No joke. On about the 5th Friday this had happened I decided to just show up anyway and act like I didn’t know he cancelled.
I went to Soldman Gach’s world headquarters, walked through the huge doors with a run in my pantyhose (long story) and stood in the massive lobby looking like the lost 22-year-old mess that I was. I told the security guards who I was there to see. They picked up the phone for a second then let me through to the elevators (to this day I have no idea why), and I made my way to the fixed income trading floor upstairs.
When I walked into Mr. Managing Partner’s office, he looked up and asked, ‘Are you that kid who won’t stop emailing my assistant?’ and laughed.
I answered yes and introduced myself, and he interrupted me and said, ‘I’m busy, what do you want?’
I felt so dumb and out of place at this point and knew I looked ridiculous. But, I was also standing in the personal office of one of the most powerful men on Wall Street, and I could see the trading floor through the glass walls and remembered why I was there. There was no choice but to just go for it at that point.
I told him I wanted to work on his trading floor, and that I’d be the best analyst he had if he gave me a shot. We talked for a few minutes, during which time he told me I needed to refine my initial correspondence practices because my first email to him sounded rude, a lesson which I took to heart. He asked me why I wanted to work in finance and if I would consider myself a risk-taker and what my favorite games were, and like a diligent interviewee I had answers to all of those things.
At the end, he said, ‘I have no idea who you are or how you got in my office, but you’ve got a conviction and I like that. I’m going to help you.’
And he did.
He retired shortly thereafter, but I ended up on a trading floor and he’s a friend to this day, and I write much more polite emails now, too.”
What Would Have Happened If They Said Yes?
“I was once interviewing for a position where I was referred by a close friend. A lot of people in that team were people I knew socially – and I knew them extremely well.
This had put the team lead (who was the hiring manager) in an awkward spot (I didn’t know him socially). He was a nice guy and extremely straightforward. He knew that I knew several people on this team already. I had tried not to make that fact too obvious – but he found out somehow anyway. He was concerned that my dynamics with all of these people would make it hard for me to take tough calls or be tough with them.
I was onsite for my rounds and I had eight people interview me one after the other. The hiring manager was the last to come in. I’d already had a previous interview round with him – and that had been quite thorough. So I wasn’t sure why I was scheduled to see him once again.
He told me, ‘I had a hard time putting together a panel of interviewers since I had to pick the ones who do not know you. I needed the panel to be unbiased.’
Me: ‘That sounds fair and that’s completely understandable.’
Him – ‘I’ll be honest with you. All of the interviewers have given positive feedback. So as far as competence goes, I have no doubts that you’re the right fit.’
Me – ‘Okay….’
Him – ‘I am, however, concerned about how we’ll deal with the situation of you knowing so many people on this team. I mean, if XYZ person (he named a friend of mine) messes up, would you be able to tell him that he needs to set things right? Your social bond with these guys might impair your ability to make a professional decision. I still wanted to interview you because your resume is a perfect match for what we want. But I’m finding it very hard to arrive at a decision because of the whole social aspect of this situation.’
Me – ‘I’ve worked in these situations before, and I assure you that I’m very comfortable keeping my social and professional life separate.’
I then gave him examples from my past jobs where I’d worked with people I knew already. I also told him that I can provide references from those jobs if he wanted to check.
He smiled and said, ‘I know you’ll try your best….but sometimes with social dynamics, it’s hard to control people and things. I’m just wondering how I could be sure that this won’t impact your professional decisions.’
He wasn’t looking for an answer. I realized he was just talking aloud and trying to convince himself.
I looked into his eyes – and I looked for a few seconds thinking about what I should say next. It was fourish in the evening and it was winter. So the sun was setting already. We were in a large glass conference room and the setting sun threw a few rays of light across his face. At that moment I realized how handsome the man was. And I couldn’t take my eyes off his face. And I kept staring.
He was silent then. So was I. It was an awkward staring situation. I wanted to snap out of it but I couldn’t. His eyes were very green and very fantastically deep. And the freaking sunlight fell right across those eyes – so I could see them better. There were no expressions on either of our faces. I just didn’t know what to do. It felt like paralysis. I wanted to move but I couldn’t.
After what seemed like an eternity, I tried to remember what his last statement had been because I needed to say something to break the spell.
It had been – ‘I’m just wondering how I could be sure that this won’t impact your professional decisions.’
And without disrupting the staring contest, I replied in a monotone, ‘There’s only one way to find out.’
I suddenly realized this sounded wrong. Although I hadn’t intended it, I had said this in a way that was a little – well – suggestive. I really hadn’t intended to do that. I swear I did not want it to come out that way. But it did.
So I immediately clarified, ‘What I mean is – you’ll have to hire me and you’ll see.’
He smiled. And finally, we snapped out of the staring contest. I smiled and looked away. We both knew something weird had just happened. So we just kept smiling – not at each other. We were looking at random walls and tables and paintings in the room and smiling.
Him: ‘Okay. I do hope we figure something out.’
Did I get the job? Yes, I did. A few days later, a recruiter called me to say they were making the offer. I politely had to decline though. I had received another offer around the same time – where the pay and designation were better. This was a really, really tough decision and for a moment I just wanted to accept the job. It would’ve been heaven with that wickedly handsome man as the team lead. I had conjured up all kinds of dreamy scenarios in my head.
But better sense prevailed – and in the end, I decided to take the job with the higher pay and designation. I’m shrewd that way.
But I do sometimes still think of what it would’ve been like if I had said yes.”
To Be Fair, Points Were Made
“A guy I knew worked as a phone salesman. I figured I wanted a new job and asked him to request me to his boss and maybe put in a few good words for me. He happily obliged. His boss was intrigued and wanted to meet me. I didn’t call though, because it was nine pm. I guess I would wait till the next morning.
A few minutes later I received a message from another guy I know, requesting a list of morphine.
‘No problem,’ I said, and went out and got a few hundreds of them. When I had the pills about 30 minutes later, the guy didn’t answer back on my calls. This annoyed me quite a bit, having in mind I just paid for all this, and I was not going to let it go without profit.
When I texted him the conversation went something like this;
Me: ‘I have what you requested… Call back. I am not waiting for too long.’
Me: ‘I’m In with 100×20&100×10 Contin/Norm morph. Call me, immediately.’
Me: ‘It’s the final message. What the heck are you doing? I have another buyer calling in 10 minutes. Don’t bother calling back after that.’
Other dude: I don’t think you and I have anything to talk about. Do not bother to come to the job interview tomorrow. We don’t want anything to do with dealers and criminals.
Shoot, I just manned down the boss of the company I wanted to work with for not responding to my dealing messages, I thought to myself.
As proud as I am, I found his reason absurd and kept up the conversation.. Which went something like his
Me: ‘Well, that’s not really a wise choice, is it? Regardless of what you just think you saw, it’s still business, no matter how you toss and turn it. The only thing I have proved is that I pursue business 24/7. Letting that go is a loss for your company. Don’t think too much about previous messages, they have a logical explanation I don’t want to burden you with. But, sleep on it and call me tomorrow.;
The next morning, I got this message:
Boss: ‘If you’re still interested you have a meeting in an hour. Hurry up here. You don’t give up, I need that.’
Me: ‘I’ll be there.’
I got the job.”
He Put Her In Her Place
“I moved to DC right out of college and was looking for a job on Capitol Hill. I figured I’d get a job at night so I could look for jobs and network during the day (people literally go from office to office in Congress with cover letters and resumes).
There was a seedy-looking nightclub where I applied to be a short-order cook. I had worked my way through college as a cook, so I figured it would be easy
Throughout the interview with the manager, fairly attractive, very buxom, leggy women kept coming in and out of the kitchen where we were talking. He asked me repeatedly during the interview if the women would be a distraction.
I kept saying ‘No,’ but I was pretty sure it was going to be difficult. (He was really looking for an older cook in his 50s rather than a 20 something-year-old)
He had me cook a cheeseburger as part of the interview process. When I was done, I put the plate in the window and just as I did, a brunette snagged a French fry off the plate. I picked up a frying spatula and screamed at her, ‘Don’t eat my food, just deliver it to your table. If it’s not your order, don’t touch it!’
The girl stopped mid-step, frozen with fear, as I quickly followed up with, ‘Now, get the heck out of my kitchen!’
Hired on the spot. Did not last long though, within a few months I got a job with a US Senator.”
Having A Little History Will The Interviewer
“I interviewed for a job in marketing. When I walked in, the guy interviewing me acted funny. In fact, as people left the room it felt like they were snickering. I wasn’t sure why or if it was related to me.
Fast-forward and I’m one of the finalists for the job. It was between me and someone else. I really needed the job right then. Something just wasn’t working though and I couldn’t figure out why. I knew if I didn’t nail down what his objection was I’d never get hired.
We were talking and I’m not sure what triggered the memory or thought but I stopped and point-blank said, ‘Have we ever been on a date?’
That took some guts. He said yes. Turns out that we were on a blind date probably 10 years before that. It wasn’t a great date either. I thought he was obnoxious. We almost got caught trespassing – my friends had the cops called on them for the exact thing we were doing a few months prior.
The next thing he admits was he always felt bad because at some point on the date, he declared it was the worst date he’d ever been on. I didn’t remember that but it probably wasn’t any ruder than the rest of the date, and besides, it was a long time ago.
After that, I realized I needed to steer the conversation away from the negative. So I started to talk about the job, my qualifications, and how that was in the past. After all it had been years, we were both married and obviously moved on.
I got the job. I guess there was a stack of applicants and it was quite competitive.
We never got along that great. Not terrible, but for many reasons, not the best either (I take some blame for that). He was still obnoxious and I was going through a particularly rough part of my life – the worst time of my life actually. That job lasted a few years, I made some very good friends and I learned a lot. Even all this time later, I still appreciate that I got it.”
Giving Him The Cold Hard Facts
“I ran the Boston Marathon in 2013, missing the bombings by ~30 minutes, but being around for all the post-explosion mayhem. A strange day indeed, and at the time I didn’t realize I had some PTSD symptoms that might affect a job interview I had the next day in NYC.
The job interview was for an exec position in charge of mobile for a big media company. Now, those of us in the mobile industry know that mobile and tablets are flat out wrecking the media industry right now, so you never know what you’re going to find at these interviews.
The interview was supposed to be three people, then a few hours before it was to start, it became two, then one. Then the last guy asked to do a call even though I was THREE BLOCKS AWAY. What?!? Serious waste of time.
On the call, he asked me to walk through my resume and actually yawned at one point. I could hear other people on the other end of the call, but he said nobody was there. He asked a couple of softball questions like, ‘What is your leadership style?’
Then came the biggie: ‘How do you think mobile is going to affect the magazine industry over the next 5-10 years?’
What an idiot. So I let him have it.
‘Your industry won’t exist in six years, but not because of mobile; it will be because of idiots like you who are afraid to do anything about it except hire a new executive to take the blame for questions you can’t answer, while you collect your bonuses and lie yourself to sleep every night grasping for any form of professional relevance. Sorry if this blunt, but time is too precious to say anything but the truth, as dark and consuming as it might be. I’m saying this because I’m trying to help you. I’ve been the guy who doesn’t have a strategy before and it sucks; right now, you are that guy. I can see it, and I’ve known you for all of 10 minutes. The ghosts in the room with you are thinking it, but they won’t say anything to you, nor will they shed a tear when you get canned and they can be the next bonus-sucking idiot in charge. All of you need to look at the numbers really hard, snap out of it, or do everyone a favor and get out of the way before it all disappears.’
Silence. Oh no, did I just say that out loud?
‘FYI, I may be having some trouble sorting out that whole Boston thing. Maybe. I mean, it’s possible,’ I awkwardly added on.
Silence again. Then he finally said, ‘I’m not sure how to follow up from that response, so I think we’re done for today.’
But a few hours later, he sent an e-mail saying thank you for the feedback, and apologized if he sounded trite. The next day, he offered me the job, only on the condition, I would continue to be as brutally honest whenever necessary.”
Why Did She Keep Going?
“Many years ago I applied for a personal assistant job to the CEO of a German company of kitchen components based in London. I was approximately 22 years of age at the time.
The German CEO who interviewed me started to go through the usual questions. What experience had I had? Did I have fast typing and shorthand speeds? Was I calm under pressure? After undergoing this for about 10 minutes he suddenly comes out with:
‘And do you like knitting?’
It sounded strange to me especially as he had a thick German accent and I thought I misheard him so I answered, ‘Knitting?’
He replied, ‘Yes knitting. You know, with the wool and with the needles.;
I was just not getting it so thought I would impress as I had been quite an avid knitter in those days, although not a very common hobby these days. So I thought it would be in order to expand and I continued, ‘Oh I love knitting. I knit all manner of things. Scarves and hats, jumpers. Made my mother a lovely cardigan not too long ago. I know all the stitches pearl, plain, ribbing, double stitch.’ I was on a roll.
He just stared at me stony-faced, put his hand up in order to stop my rambling, and replied, ‘Well, you certainly won’t get any time for that here, my dear!’
I felt like a complete idiot, got the job, in fact, stayed for many years, and never had any time for knitting there.”
That’s Quite The First Impression
“I hobbled into the creative director’s office on two crutches, my entire right leg wrapped in a knee brace that extended from my upper thigh to my ankle. I was somewhere in between that phase between hammered and hungover, having only stopped drinking four hours before the nine am interview. I know, stupid, but I was on a dual vacation-interview trip from Dubai to Lebanon, and an innocent happy hour drink had evolved into an all-out pub-club fest that went on for hours.
So there I was interviewing for a job at a top regional advertising agency, seated across from the guy who could potentially be my next boss, in a stuffy office, so hot I was finding it hard to breathe, my eyes darting from his face to the window, willing it to burst open. We had barely exchanged a few pleasantries when there was a knock at the door. A woman in her mid-20s entered, asked a question, walked back towards the door to exit, and stopped.
She turned around, stared at me, and said, ‘I know you.’
I had no idea who she was. And this girl wasn’t someone you’d forget easily. Piercings, tattoos, tight leather outfits, just a very strong presence. And yet, nada.
‘I’m sorry.. I don’t think I know you,’ I slowly said, completely lost.
‘No, I know you,’ she said, staring at me.
She seemed very sure, and before I could say anything else, she followed up with, ‘Do you know Charlie?’
My head flooded with images: shot glasses clinking, heads thrown back to gulp it all down, loud music, thumping bass, me on top of a table, crutches and all, dancing with..yup, Charlie.
‘Uh,’ I awkwardly said.
‘We were with you at the jazz club last night, friends of Charlie’s,’ she told me.
Seriously, I had no freaking clue who this woman was, but yeah, the jazz club had been the fourth or fifth stop in a night that was apparently haunting me in full daylight. Seeing the ummm-duh look on my face, she said, ‘Remember? You came in holding drinks and dancing, kinda crashed into one of the tables; he kept loudly singing with the band off-key, you wanted one of the band members to play your crutch. Yeah, you were totally wasted last night.’
And she walked out.
So there I was, in a stuffy office, barely able to breathe, seated across from a creative director who was now looking at me with his jaw going south. So I did what I always do when cornered.
I let go of the reins on my brain, relinquishing all control over that section of my conscience that commandeered behavior according to societal norms and values, looked him right in the eye, and said, ‘You should see me without the crutches.’
I think a little spittle hit me in the face when he guffawed, but maybe that was just sensory projection. Then I said, ‘You’re never going to get a better first impression.’
He nodded as he laughed, and when I hobbled out an hour later, I had already been offered the job.”