Looking for a job is hard, especially getting an interview. When that goal is reached, the pressure to succeed only increases. But, is surviving the interview questions is the tougher end of the process? Being a hiring manager can be just as stressful, whether the interviewee or the company they work for is the source of their pain.
The following stories come from interviewers and interviewees alike, who took to Reddit to share the worst job interviews they have ever participated in. Perhaps, whether people are hoping to hire or hoping to be hired, these stories will teach a lesson about what not to do at the next interview.
Hot Topic Managers Don’t Mess Around
“When I was in college, I applied at Hot Topic because it seemed like one of the best options job-wise for my personality in the small Tennessee town where I went to school. I turned in the application and got an interview slot for the next day. When I asked the girl who took my application (but would not do the interview) what kind of attire would be appropriate for the interview, she said just to show up in whatever because they had no dress code.
The next day, I showed up in business casual – tailored slacks, nice blouse, kitten heels. After a quick introduction, the manager, who was maybe 25 to my 20, immediately commented on my clothes, saying that I was under-dressed for a professional interview. Apparently, he had worn a full suit to his. He said this while wearing ratty jeans, an old band tee, and flip-flops. I did not really say anything to that.
The interview, which was basically just a ‘shooting the breeze’ session about what bands I like, would I go to local shows or bars with coworkers (which was, apparently, expected), and the occasional normal retail question, such as: ‘If you saw someone or a coworker steal something under $1, what would you do?’
From the start, he told me to treat the interview like a friendly conversation, but it felt very sporadic. He would ask questions in a very casual manner, but if I responded casually, he would change his tone to sound really stringent and professional. If I then responded in kind, he would tell me to lighten up. I went in expecting a job interview but it felt like I was subjected to a good cop/bad cop interrogation, with both cops being the same guy.
Near the end of the interview, during which he had been eating his lunch, he asked if I would like a sip of his lemonade. I politely declined because, while I did not give an explanation, I certainly was not going to share a straw with a total stranger. He shrugged and said that the girl he had interviewed right before me had some and he thought she was pretty cool.
Well, I guess I’m just a freaking stick in the mud.“
Congratulations, Hired… For Life?
“I was a general manager at a Chick-fil-a for a while. One day, a 19-year-old kid walked into the restaurant for an interview. He seemed nice enough and the interview was good, so I offered him a job on the spot.
He immediately broke down in tears. At first I thought he was overly ecstatic and was merely happy crying. It seemed odd, but some people are that desperate. But, he kept crying and did not seem pleased. I thought maybe the stress level of the interview was high and he was crying out of stress or relief.
This kid was extremely upset. Apparently, his parents had given him an ultimatum to either get a job or leave the house. But working fast food wasn’t what he wanted to do for with his life. He had an interview later that day at some video game store in town, which was his dream job. That all seemed like it would be no big deal, but after talking to him (consoling him?) for five minutes, I realized he believed that once I offered him the job, he was forced to accept and had to begin working immediately.
It seemed like he felt he was supposed to be fine with 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 to get a steady job history.
He just really had no idea that people changed jobs. Both of his parents only ever talked about working at one place, so he assumed you worked your first job until you retired. How this kid made it all the way to 19 without realizing that people can have multiple jobs is beyond me.”
She Was Too Strong
“I interviewed for a florist position as a teenager. I’m quite small and so the owner kept telling me I’d struggle to lift the buckets filled with water and flowers.
He then gave me a tour and showed me the storeroom, and he told me to pick up a bucket to get an idea of how heavy it was.
Since he had kept going on about it, I severely overestimated how heavy the bucket would be and basically flung it above my head and drenched us both in icy water and flowers.
I didn’t get the job. I don’t think it was because of the bucket though. He told me he would arrange a trial for me the next week but seemed super spacey. He called me the wrong name about 5 times during the interview so I wouldn’t be surprised if he just…forgot he wanted to hire someone.”
“Mom, Can I Get A Job, Please?”
“My family does not make much money, so I wanted to have a job to help pay for my college. The only problem was that my mom was extremely protective. Toward the end of my senior year of high school, after months of asking her to let me apply for a job, she finally said yes, but only if it was nearby since she didn’t want to drive me there. My parents didn’t want me to get a license fearing I might run away. I’m 19 and I still don’t have one.
After turning in a few applications, I managed to land an interview with Wendy’s. On the day of the interview, my mom said she got me a ‘congratulations gift,’ which was a bluetooth earpiece. She wanted me to go to the interview wearing it while she was on a call with me. Once I arrived, the hiring manager gave me a weird look but didn’t mention the earpiece.
The interview was going well. Then, toward the end, she started mentioning some of the requirements needed for the job, such as being able to talk to people, handle food, and pick up 50 pounds in weight. That was when I heard the click of my mother’s phone being un-muted, followed by about two minutes of her screaming about how she didn’t want me to hurt my back, how the job was too dangerous, etc. I tried to maintain my composure, but my mom started telling me to get up and leave right away.
I asked the manager to give me a moment and she said OK. I went to the bathroom and pleaded with my mom to let me stay to no avail. She told me to leave without saying a word because she was already outside waiting for me in her car.
As I walked out, I gave the manager a sad look and waved goodbye to her without saying a word.”
“This Lady Acted Like I Blew Up Her Childhood Dog With Roman Candles”
“I was a college freshman when I applied for a part-time work-study gig at the library. Young, beautiful, and wanting to make a good first impression, I went to the office I was supposed to be at 15 minutes early. I walked in, saw the lady I was to be interviewed by, and introduced myself.
‘Hi,’ I said to the interviewer, ‘I’m here for the 10:30 interview? Sorry if I’m a little early.’
The interviewer, a grown woman, proceeded to have a freaking meltdown, ‘It’s only 10:15! You are early. Go sit down. Go sit over there. Outside!’
It was totally unprecedented and caught me off guard. She was honest-to-God yelling at me, so I just wandered to the sitting area and waited. At 10:30, on the dot, she called me in and muttered about how I was early.
The rest of the interview went alright, but this lady acted like I blew up her childhood dog with roman candles. It was just a very hostile attitude. Eventually, we went downstairs to introduce me to another employee.
‘Sorry we are a little early,’ she said to him. ‘She came at 10:15 and not 10:30.’
At this point, I was getting kinda fed up. I am normally super shy and chill, but this lady was getting on my nerves.
‘I’m sorry that coming in early for my interview was a bad idea, but you really shouldn’t treat candidates like this,’ I interrupted. ‘I couldn’t imagine working for someone like you. Bye!’
I walked out of the interview and got a job with the local massage parlor instead.
This lady had the biggest bug up her butt. She was just a rude, awful woman. I left that college after my first year, but I still remember that nasty old hag.”
All Work And No Fun…
“I was kept waiting for an hour because the department head was on a lunch break. The company scheduled the appointment, so this was not a good start. I was about to walk out when they called me in (nobody else was there but me).
‘Why do you want to work here?’ the hiring manager asked.
You can’t really say for the money so I said, ‘I like the work etc,’ and to close off I said, ‘I heard it was a fun place to work.’
‘Do you think this is a playground?’ she replied. ‘That you’ll be able to slack off?’ This went on for about a minute and she kept getting louder. I stood up, laughed and left. No wonder they are constantly looking for new people.”
He Came In For A Job, Not A Life Story
“I showed up to an interview way outside of town on a train. The interviewer picked me up from the station and took me back to the office. I got in the car and noticed that the interviewer was a very large-in-stature transwoman. Being the classical liberal that I am, I did not bat an eye at that. I don’t really care. A person’s gender identity does not enter into the equation of us working together… until they shoehorn it right in there.
Somehow, within 15 minutes of the actual interview starting, she started telling me all about her life and how hard transitioning had been, yada yada yada. It was super inappropriate for an interview, but again, I shrugged it off because I assume she did not have many people to talk to in real life. Without interrupting, I steered the conversation back to work-related things a few times.
Then, things got a little more inappropriate. She started telling me how hard it was for her to find a boyfriend to openly be with her and how she was so tired of hooking up with younger men. She said the majority of men who would sleep with her were in their ‘late 20s, early 30s’… which was my age group.
Around that time, I realized that we were not just the only people in the office, but likely the only people in the building, or even office complex. I also realized that she had about one foot and easily 100 pounds on me. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and pocketed a box cutter that I carried in my gig bag. Thankfully nothing bad happened, aside from really, really awkward conversation.
After the longest three hours of my life, I finally realized I had to make up an obligation for her to take me back to the train station. I got an email saying I got the job. I deleted it and set all following emails from her to go straight to trash. Then she called me. I blocked the number. Then she called me from another number. I blocked that one, too.
I’ve had a lot of bad interviews and bad work situations, but this definitely was the worst.”
She Learned The Corporate World Was Tough For A Woman The Harsh Way
“I had a job interview for a position with a construction company that was building a well-known and very popular casino complex, not in Las Vegas. They had four candidates: me and three guys. They hired one of the guys instead. He showed up for work the first day, but not the second. Then they hired the second candidate. He left three days later to go to work for one of the Big Three automakers. Then, they hired the third guy. He lasted about a week… then he was fired for harassment of the female electricians.
I was their last hope. They re-interviewed me, skeptical that a woman could handle the job. My qualifications were actually better than all three of the male candidates, but they hemmed and hawed.
‘Well, you’re not going to go and get yourself knocked up in a month, are you?’ one of the three corporate bigwigs that interviewed me asked. ‘We don’t need no woman who’s just shopping for a husband.’
I took the job anyway because I really needed it. I worked for the company until the end of the construction project three years later. Fortunately, I was out in the field, not in the office, and never had to see that prick again.”
Interview With A Hyporcrite
“I was the store manager for a video game store and the district manager decided to sit in on interviews. I was fairly new to the company, but not new to interviewing. Still, he wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. He spent about 20 minutes before we opened explaining laws and rules about what you can and cannot ask someone.
The first interview was a very attractive and very well endowed young woman. I started the interview by asking normal questions about past work experiences and what not. I glanced over at the district manager and he was full on staring at her chest. She looked over at him and saw him staring. She became uncomfortable and shuffled around in her seat. I started to ask another question, but he interrupted.
‘Does your back ever hurt?’ he asked, still gawking at her chest.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I tried to steer the question to a more legal question.
‘What he means,’ I interjected, ‘is we require you to lift 20 pounds or more. Would you be able to do that?’
The manager shook his head and said, ‘No, I mean do you ever suffer from backaches from carrying around those?’
She was visually upset. I tried to change the subject again. Without missing a beat, he looked at her and asked if she had a boyfriend. I could not end that interview fast enough. I left the company about three weeks later.”
The Least Important Question Was Of Great Importance To This Candidate
“We used to ask a math question as part of the beginning of our interviews. It was always something relatively simple such as, ‘What is 60% of 300?’ When we asked the question, it was never a deal breaker if they got it wrong, and we always offered the candidate paper and a pencil. If someone came back with an answer that was approximate, or I could understand their train of thought, it was the same to me as getting the question correct.
Once, we asked this exact question to a candidate and she paused. No, a pause lasts for a few seconds. More accurately, 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 myself were on the verge of laughing. I’m not exaggerating – it had actually been 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 it a question about money.”
Jimmy John’s Lost A Good One That Day
“I was new to town and desperate for a job. I was born in a small town that didn’t get a Starbucks until about 2004 and we didn’t have a lot of fast food joints. My college was in a somewhat rural area for a college, so similar scenario.
So here I am in a ‘big city’ interviewing at Jimmy John’s. Everyone else applying is in a t-shirt and jeans. Some look pretty scrappy and have tattered clothes. I’m in khakis and a button up. The guy interviewing me isn’t even remotely warm or friendly. He’s about 40 and seems offended that I’m even sitting across from him in the little booth. His assistant beside him looks more bored than aggressive. He asks standard questions for a minute or so then asks me what my favorite Jimmy John’s sub is.
I flat out admit, ‘Sir, I’ve never had Jimmy John’s because there just aren’t anywhere I’ve ever been my whole life and I just moved here.’
‘That’s bullcrap, we have 3,000 locations in the country.’
Well, not in rural South Carolina, you prick.
I didn’t get the job or even a callback. The interview was basically over at that point.
I’m currently in a city littered with Jimmy John’s. To this day, I won’t buy a dang thing from them because of that guy. I used to live a five minute’s walk away from the one I interviewed at and would take the extra quarter mile for Subway or Five Guys.”
They Made Demands On Her That Were Entirely Inappropriate
“I want to preface this by saying I hold no ill will towards Christians and this is not an attack on them.
I went to an interview at a pest control company once. They had me do a test to make sure I could read house blueprints and went over my resume, etc. Then, they started asking personal questions about my spouse and such. Then things got weird.
The lady said, ‘Now my husband and I are both followers of Jesus. We go to the Baptist church down the street. Our business is a faith-based organization. We seek to serve others not only through pest control, but in our work to glorify God. Would you have a problem with that?’
Well you see, I would have a problem with that. I’m a former Christian for good reason. At the time of the interview, however, I just really needed a job, so I said no.
‘Yeah, I saw that you went to a Baptist university so I figured,’ she said. ‘My husband and I will sometimes have prayer and devotionals in the mornings, sometimes he may read something from the bible and you would be expected to attend. Would that be okay?’
Of course, that was not okay, but I needed a job, so I said yes. They continued with the interview and said part of their interview process (which was the longest interview process I’ve ever seen) was that they would have to have a spouse interview to make sure that ‘you guys are a good fit for us and that we are for you.’
She was being very careful not to say explicitly that I had to participate or anything, but I knew from how carefully she was treading that she knew it was illegal. Luckily, I got another job offer and never responded back to them.”
Whole Foods Totally Wasted His Time
“I’d applied for a job in the kitchen at Whole Foods since I had a culinary degree and experience working with USDA organics. I showed up for the interview and was told to wait until the boss was ready.
I sat there with my knife kit (since they told me I’d be demonstrating knife skills) for three freaking hours. Eventually someone said that the boss had forgotten about me. I left steaming. They called me the next day to do a phone interview. They asked me some really complex culinary questions, like proportions in a roux, French names of cuts, the proper process of making a sachet, and how to make stock. Also, I think the boss was reading the questions off a sheet, because she wasn’t a cook. In either case, I nailed every question. ‘Oh, awesome. We’ll hire you on to the taco station for $11 an hour.’ I laughed and hung up.”