There are some jobs that aren’t worth it. These candidates share the immediate red flag they saw on interview day that made them decline the job offer. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
“Sorry, Ma’am, I’m New Here”
“The ‘interview’ was at a busy time for the shop. When I got there, I was immediately handed an apron and hair net and told to do a trial shift.
No instruction, no tour of the place, and nobody to help me out. Not even a quick ‘Food Safety 101.’ The customers were lucky I worked food service before.
The manager just said, ‘Ok, go and serve customers now.’
I had a few embarrassing mess ups of me having to ask the customer how to do their food, ‘Sorry, sir I’m new. Is the chicken pie the red or yellow wrapped one?’ or ‘Sorry, ma’am, I’m new here. Do you know where the mozzarella sticks are kept?’
I wasn’t being paid, and I wouldn’t work minimum wage for someone who was clearly willing to take advantage of free labor and not even train potential employees. I gave the last guy all the food left in the serving trays for free and just left.
The manager didn’t have any sort of logbook or register to keep track of orders and money, so I doubt she even noticed I didn’t get money for that last ‘order’. She hadn’t told me how to use the cookers or where raw ingredients were kept, so it wasn’t as if I could even have cooked more food once what was already there was out. She hadn’t even asked for my name. She had no idea who I was.
She probably missed quite a few customers who got tired of waiting for someone to be serving, but I couldn’t find her to let her know I was leaving and it literally wasn’t my job.”
“I applied for this really cool temporary position with Cold Spring Harbor, a research institution, right as I was graduating with my Ph.D. The job was two years long, and the project was to write a book. They wanted a book called, The 100-Year History of Biotechnology at Cold Spring Harbor or something like that.
I applied in July when I saw the ad. I got a call a few weeks later and the woman in charge of the project interviewed me over Skype. This was back in 2011. I’d never done that before, and it was exciting to use video technology in that way. The job was in New York on their research campus and I was living in Denver. So, there was a two-year temporary commute or relocation to consider.
There wasn’t much of a budget for expenses, but she assured me how all my research for the book could be done over the phone and by Skype. I basically would have to track down and interview scientists who could speak about the work done there over the last 100 years.
I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to fly around to interview people, but I got over it quickly as I was excited to take the job if she offered it to me.
Months passed and I heard nothing back. Then four months later, she called me back and wanted a second interview. Um, ok. I was still unemployed so I was eager how this was still an option.
On the Skype call, she said the job was mine and asked when I could start. It certainly seemed they weren’t in a rush since they took four months to hire.
I said something about starting the following week remotely, or starting on campus in New York in January. We were days away from American Thanksgiving and I had little chance of getting a lot of book research done with people traveling for the holidays. It seemed smart to start fresh at the beginning of the year.
She insisted, ‘How about we meet in my office on Monday.’
I thought she misunderstood.
I reminded her, ‘Ma’am, I live in Denver, Colorado. With the upcoming holiday, I can’t just leave the state on a few days notice.’
She responded flatly, ‘Well, some people could be in my office on Monday.’
Because this was Skype, I got to see my face twist into an expression that I privately heralded as priceless.
My response was, ‘Well, then maybe you should hire those people for this job.’
As suddenly she wasn’t talking to me anymore. She was talking to herself. She flew into a frenzy and complained about how she had already spent a huge amount of this budget and she was on the hook to get this project done and blah blah.
I realized this was not my dream job. This was a nightmare that I almost stepped into. This woman had probably already hired someone in July. They probably quit in a frustrated rage and left her to scramble another writer into place. I was supposed to pick up seamlessly from the tatters of that failed relationship.
I thanked her for her time and risked my own offer back to her.
I said, ‘If I can start in January and have two full years to finish the project, I’m yours.’
I never heard back from her.”
“The Little Terms And Conditions”
“I was referred to this company that was owned by a local pastor for an office manager role. I was excited to get an interview because the pay was good. However, the interview started out quite strangely.
The pastor asked me to join him in a brief chant before we began. I should have probably got up and left at this point but no, I sat there and pretended to participate.
After looking through my resume, he ran through the basic interview questions which I answered with delight. And from the way he was nodding and smiling at each answer, I could tell I was saying exactly what he wanted to hear.
It didn’t take long before he wrapped up the session, told me he was impressed with my experience and qualifications, and would like to work with me but first I needed to accept their ‘little’ terms and conditions.
I first thought, ‘That’s weird. What can it be?’
He handed me a piece of paper with a list of things on it. I started reading through and it was more like a list of rules. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Apparently, makeup, skirts/dresses above the knee, hair dye, artificial nails, shorts, sleeveless clothing, etc were not allowed within the office premises for female employees. On top of all that, there was a section at the bottom where you had to declare your faith.
I thought, ‘What the heck!’
I immediately got up, thanked him for his time, and told him, ‘I don’t think I’ll be accepting the job offer.’
He tried to convince me to take my time and think about it but I knew my answer wasn’t going to change.
I left there very disappointed.”
This Had To Be A Prank, Right?!
“At the conclusion of an interview for a company in need of a general HR Manager, I realized this was one of those great experiences where I hit it off with the General Manager and the other people on the hiring panel. We were laughing and sharing stories off the record and pens down. We clicked and I had a great feeling, which just intensified when the GM asked me to stick around so the owner could meet me.
About ten minutes later, I stood up to greet a gruff-looking older man in a well-worn suit. He looked like an air traffic controller in the middle of a bad storm with fifty birds in the air; just the kind of severe and all-consumed no-nonsense personality that I’ve seen many times before. He sized me up in his eyes, cocked his head, and decided after a firm handshake he would sit down with me. Without a word, everyone else left and I’d noticed they took all the air with them.
‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Here’s the deal. I run my shop how I want to. I know we gotta follow the laws to stay out of trouble, but I know my business and I know what works. I don’t hire women of a certain age because they cost me money when they get pregnant. I don’t mind it in the office so much because when a girl on the staff gets pregnant, I think of the time as my gift to the family, but older women and these single women who get pregnant, I don’t abide by that. I only hire certain people in accounting. Play to their strengths. I expect thorough background checks and a college degree from any person living in certain neighborhoods in town. I don’t care what anyone says about how I run things around here. One time, I had a kid from a bad area come in here a few years back to case the place for his hoodlum buddies and they stole pallets of product off my dock. Fool me once, y’know?’
He was so over the top that the only thing I could think of was this was a test of some kind. Based on how the others spoke and acted during the interview, I could not imagine them working for this caricature of a boss in 2012 AD.
He continued, ‘I don’t want to hear anything about tolerance training, sensitivity, or none of that nonsense. We’re men on the production floor and on the dock and I get the best work from them when they’re thinking like men, not wrapped up in feelings. I met my first wife here forty years ago. I hired her to fetch my coffee. She did it so well I married her. Found my second wife the same way. It’s good to be the king and I don’t need someone coming in to change all that. That something you feel you might fit into?’
I smiled and replied, ‘I see what you’re doing.’
He looked confused.
I continued, ‘Everything you just said could be pulled direct from a ‘what not to say to HR’ handbook for awful bosses. Have you had anyone tell you they’d help you run that kind of shop?’
He just glared at me until I realized I was looking at a rare beast, a creature of a prehistoric age that thrived only because the environment had allowed him to while the rest of the world drove his species toward extinction. And I dropped all pretense of campaigning for a job, hoping this was a ‘candid camera’ moment.
‘No, sir. I’m not going to be part of that culture. Those aren’t values I can get behind. Thanks for the talk,’ I said.
We both stood. I offered a hand and he just stood there looking at me. I walked out.
In retrospect, I realized the GM and others were trying hard to bring me on in spite of their boss. I’d never been buttered up so much before the second interview. They couldn’t get a decent HR person and I learned later the boss didn’t want one, which made sense.
But I kept thinking someone would rush out of the shop before I got to my car and left the lot shouting, ‘Surprise! It was a test. You passed! Come back and sign the papers!’
But they didn’t. So, I left. The company folded five years later as the owner died and the assets were sold off to cover his debts.”
An Interview Or A Blind Date?
“My daughter went to an interview for a bar manager position in a nice restaurant in town. When she arrived, she was greeted by the manager who immediately made her feel uncomfortable.
His handshake and the way he looked at her made her uneasy. This continued for the duration of the interview.
First, she discovered that the position had been filled but before he asked her a single question he offered her a job in reception.
He said, ‘The requirement is to always wear makeup and oh, short skirts help with tips. Promotion is available too if you prove yourself.’
He made it clear that being nice to him was a good way to do that.
She’s not a stupid girl. She’s not dramatic and she is assertive and confident. She couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
He said, ‘Take my number and call me whether you accept the job or not.’
She couldn’t even find a positive spin to put on the situation. She said she couldn’t even chalk it up to interview experience because it was a blind date.
She refused the job and reported him to head office. Hopefully, they will be advertising his job soon.”
“I was interested in a job at a large telecom company. I had a great phone interview. The person conducting the interview asked quite a few questions and immediately set up an interview with me the following Monday.
I arrived 15 minutes early and dressed in my favorite two-piece suit, tie, and shoes.
As I entered the office, the secretary looked up, seemingly startled by my presence when I said, ‘Hi, I’m Kevin Kennedy, I have an interview for one pm today.’
She first looked at me, puzzled. Then she put on the smile I know to be one of amusement, and replied, ‘You’re Kevin Kennedy?’
I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’
She said, ‘Okay, one moment.’
She got up from her desk, went into the next office, and spoke quietly with the man in the room.
At 1:05 pm, two men brought me into a conference room and the first question asked, ‘So, you’re Kevin Kennedy, eh?’
‘Yes,’ I smiled, realizing by this time, they did not believe the man sitting across from them with the polished resume and bright smile (that was beginning to fade) was actually who he said he was.
The interview began with the gentlemen (I use this term loosely) poring over my resume, and of course quizzing me on the dates and accomplishments contained in the document, asking no questions that I’ve typically had asked of me at job interviews.
Then he finally asked, ‘Mr. uh, Kennedy, can we see your driver’s license?’
I kindly showed them my US Passport and driver’s license but was never asked if I had any questions about the position. Afterward, I thanked them and left.
About two weeks later, I was called and offered the job. I realized a company that couldn’t look beyond my looks may not be the best fit for me, so I politely declined the offer.
If someone tells you who they are, believe them.”
“Only One Question Asked”
“The three 20-something young men sat across a table from me. I’d just returned to the States from a couple of years living abroad, and it was time to find a job. Back then (18 years ago), the newspaper classifieds were still a pretty good resource for job hunters. The description had been a bit vague, but the promised wage was decent, so I sent in a résumé and got an interview.
When I arrived, I waited in a stairwell outside a sparsely furnished office with another guy about my age (20-something), until my interview slot came. When I entered, after the usual greetings, there was only one question asked.
‘What business is McDonald’s in?’ The interviewer asked.
The trouble is, I recognized the question and its source. Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad books were growing in popularity, and a friend had shown me a passage in which Ray Kroc, owner of the McDonald’s chain, asked a class of Harvard MBA students that very question, receiving predictable answers such as ‘restaurants,’ and ‘hospitality,’ only to reveal that he considers himself to be in the real estate business.
I’ve always considered Kiyosaki’s approach to personal wealth to be irresponsible and well beyond my risk-tolerance level. He was very trendy at the time, and the fact this question constituted the whole of my interview was a huge red flag for me. In my mind, it communicated how this company was following financial trends rather than principles, and how the company would probably be long on charisma and short on discipline. Combine that with the lack of concrete detail about the job, I was more than a bit wary.
I answered the question properly, finished with pleasantries and small talk, and drove away. I received a call-back before I’d gone a single mile. I’d gotten the job. They explained it was a sales position (something I wouldn’t have bothered interviewing for if I’d known), and started talking about a starting date.
‘Actually, I’m not really interested,’ I said.
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
Finally, he just said, ‘Okay, thanks!’
That was it. I still feel like I dodged a bullet with that one.”
Don’t Jump To Conclusions!
“A recruiter got in touch with me through LinkedIn regarding an opportunity to work for a luxury car brand. I gave her my number and asked her to call after four pm because I didn’t want to take the call at work.
When she rang that evening, we went through my work history and I emailed her my CV. In the morning, she rang back to say the hiring manager liked my CV and wanted to schedule a phone interview.
The following day, I received a call from a gentleman who introduced himself as my interviewer. I went through my work history once again.
I answered his questions, gave examples to support my answers, and explained the gap in my CV. I also asked questions about the role and the company.
‘You have the skills and experience required. I like your attitude, you are very straightforward and assertive but I’m hesitant. If we hire you, once you get bored of the job, you’ll probably leave just like you are doing with your current employer,’ he said.
It rubbed me the wrong way and I thought it was very presumptuous of him to assume I was leaving because I was bored. I was looking for new opportunities because I wanted to get out of a toxic workplace. I agreed to interview for the position because I already worked in the field. I had the skills and experience. They were also offering better pay and benefits.
He spoke to me for a few minutes and assumed to know the reasons I was leaving my then-current employer. I guess in his entire career he never left a job for better opportunities.
‘Thank you for considering me for the role but I’m no longer interested,’ I said to him and ended the call.
Hiring managers are so full of themselves. They don’t even realize how sometimes people just leave bad bosses and toxic work environments. I can’t see myself working for someone who is so quick to jump to conclusions.”
“How Much Is The Base Minimum Salary?”
“Fresh out of college in the 1980s, I interviewed for a job with a stock brokerage firm. It was relatively young and emphasized the sky was the limit in terms of potential earnings.
I asked a question, ‘How much is the base minimum salary?’
The response was, ‘We don’t believe in putting a limit on how much you earn.’
I responded, ‘This has been quite clear from the very beginning with our talk of high commissions and potentially sky-high commissions, but is there a floor?’
Again came the response, ‘We don’t believe in putting a limit on how much you earn.’
I pondered for a moment as a realization dawned on me exactly what was being said.
‘So what you are telling me,’ I replied, ‘Is that you want me to move 250 miles to a new city, get housing, and begin working for you with no guarantee of getting paid anything at all? Surely you don’t think I’m that crazy, do you?’
I stood up, shook hands with the interviewer, and left.
About 18 months later, the principals of the firm were all indicted on federal charges. It seemed not only were they churning accounts and tacking on fees to their customers, but they were also skimming the commissions of their brokers. I definitely made the right choice.”
“I was interviewing at a large insurance company that will remain nameless. They had me come in to meet with the new sales manager. I was told they had been cleaning house, and this was the guy who would ‘save the branch.’ Well, he was an idiot and knew nothing about sales, and I figured that out rather quickly.
For those that don’t understand sales, or get a bad taste in their mouths just hearing about it, let me be clear that it is not an easy job. It is also not one that involves ‘pushing things’ on people. In fact, the best salespeople are some of the most amazing listeners you’ll ever meet. I think it’s the only reason I ever managed to work in sales, along with being able to build rapport with about anyone. In fact, there is a great talk from Tyler Bosmeny, the founder and CEO of Clever, where he explains how he monitors sales calls in his organization by time spent talking. If the prospect does 75 percent of the talking, there is a good chance a sale will be made. If his rep did that much talking, he can pretty well bet they won’t close any new business there.
Back to this interview, the new sales manager spent almost the entire interview talking to me. He actually told me, ‘Selling is in the telling.’
This is almost laughable because the actual quote used in sales departments is, ‘Selling ain’t in the telling.’ This guy was clueless. He kept flexing his ego the whole time. Then he began asking me utterly illegal interview questions about my personal life.
After this, though it hadn’t been discussed at all, he said I would have to work for several hours being monitored by others to assess my sales skills. So without having budgeted the time for it, he sat me down at an empty desk, gave me a sheet of leads, and had me start calling people trying to close business for them. Without pay. Without being employed in any way.
After two hours of this nonsense, I let him know I had other engagements and politely asked to leave.
He said, ‘Well, if you want,’ as though it would cost me the job.
I went home and wrote an email to the executive in charge of HR, and received a follow-up call the next day during which I explained how messed up the interview process was. I have never interacted with that company again, and when I see job ads from them, I can only roll my eyes.”