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August 23, 2005

Interview Disaster Stories

A few years back, after an interview, I stood up to shake the hand of the woman with whom I’d been talking. After shaking her hand, I took a step backwards, tripped over a beanbag (yes, it was at a dotcom) and landed on my bottom. Thankfully, she was the one going for a job, and I was the one doing the interviewing. Otherwise, it would have been a long drive home, contemplating how I’d literally fallen on my ass at the interview.

Given how many interviews are conducted every day throughout the world of work, it’s a guarantee that there are some pretty great disaster stories out there. In their recent book, Monster Careers: Interviewing, the authors have a comical sidebar section called “What Were They Thinking,” in which they detail some good interviewing gaffes recounted by recruiters. Here’s an example of one:

“One time, during the interviewing process, I had to tell a candidate that unfortunately we would not be able to offer him a job because, even if he qualified for the position, his drug test came back positive, and this was a drug/alcohol-free environment. He sadly said, 'Oh, that’s too bad.' After thinking for a few minutes he looked up at me and said, 'Can you tell me which one showed up on the test results?'”

Since blogs are such a great forum for feedback, I’m curious to know what interview disasters you’ve had or heard about through friends. I hope you’ll share.

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Posted by Thad on August 23, 2005 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack (1)

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Tracked on Jul 11, 2006 11:20:18 AM

Comments

I was using a behavioral interviewing tool from one of the major providers of such things with a female candidate for a sales position. One of the questions was, "How flexible are you?" with a follow up of "Please demonstrate?"

Well...just use your imagination.

No, she didn't go THERE.

She did however "demonstrate" by putting her leg behind her head and telling me there was more where that came from.

OH - ONE MORE
At the end of one interview I asked perhapst the stupidest question I ever asked - "Is there anything else you would like to tell me about yourself that I didn't ask?"

She proceeded to tell me what a Star Trek fan she was. She said "well..I'm a Trekkie" and pulled out a crocheted Starship Enterprise and showed me a picture of her with the original cast of Star Trek at some Star Trek convention. Needless to say I stopped asking that question.

Posted by: Michael Homula | Aug 23, 2005 2:30:53 PM

I was interviewing a Risk Manager and at the end of the interview the guy got up and parachuted out the window.

Posted by: Canadian Headhunter | Aug 24, 2005 5:21:52 PM

These are all pretty crazy, but, holy-cow, the parachute? CanHead - is that really true?

Ok, a bad one on me - I was interviewing a VP candidate a few months back (lunch interview). Half-way thru the interview he inadvertently put his glass of iced tea right next to mine (I was sitting on his left). Yep, you guessed it - I picked up his glass and had a big gulp of tea before I realized what had happened....it was all I could do to keep from spewing it all over the table.

Lucky for me, we passed on him.

Posted by: Masked-Blogger | Aug 24, 2005 7:25:45 PM

I was being interviewed by a manager for a software development job. For some reason, he had his toddler with him at work that day. When it was time for me to meet with him, it was clear that the toddler's diaper needed to be changed. He changed the diaper in his office, while interviewing me, and threw the dirty smelly diaper into his trash. I could have lived with the diaper-changing, but the smell was overwhelming.

I decided I didn't want to work for a manager who didn't think enough about the smells in his office.

Posted by: Johanna Rothman | Aug 25, 2005 3:15:00 PM

I was interviewing to hire a truck driver and had a large number of applicants. The interviews were scheduled over several days.

A couple of days after one of the early interviews, I was called in the evening at home by a candidate who wanted to know if I had made a decision yet. When I said that I hadn't yet, he volunteered that he had an out of town trip to make for his present employer. He had to leave early the next morning, and would tell the employer where to stuff his trip if he had been hired by me.

Scratch that one!

Posted by: Gary Strachan | Aug 26, 2005 6:14:01 PM

I have been doing technical writing for over fifteen years now. Prior to this I was an assitant engineer in electronics. In 2000, I was losing my job because it was being moved to Canada, so I started looking for a new job.

I got an interview with a company in Somerset, NJ. The woman in charge of the Technical Writing Department held a BS degree in Communications and she was looking for a knowledgable technical writer.

She started off asking me questions about my writing and ask to see a few samples, which I showed her. She looked at them for a short time and after a while became a little puzzled. She then questioned the accuracy of the content of my documents, which I defended. She then showed me what she wanted in a few samples of Data Sheets and a few Technical Procedures that she had produced for that company. As I looked through them, I realized that the woman did not know the basic differences between voltage, current, and resistance. Everything thing was either wrong, or stressing the wrong device characteristics. I then made the mistake of politely pointing this out and that it might cost them in sales if they weren't cleaned up. I was then told that the interview was over and to leave. I did so.

Needless to say, I did not get the job. However six months later, I was working at a new place that I really enjoyed, when I then got a phone call from that very same company in Somerset, NJ. In a brief exchange with the HR person, I was told that the woman that I had took the interview with was no longer with the company. She then asked me if I would be interested in coming back for another interview. I smiled and said no.

Posted by: A Real Technical Writer | Sep 5, 2005 9:58:40 AM

Several years ago, I was conducting an interview with an older gentleman. After the interview was over, he stood up and leaned forward to shake my hand, bowing (like an Oriental individual would do), and in the process, his toupee slid right off his head! Reacting with my cat-like reflexes, I grabbed it with my left hand and sheepishly handed it back to him. Needless to say, this was a great story to share with colleagues in the lunchroom later on!

Posted by: Barry Peters | Sep 6, 2005 12:09:21 PM

During an interview I had several years ago, I was sitting with my potential employer in a very big lounge-type leather chair. After about an hour of speaking, we stood up, shook hands and he politely gestured me to leave his office first. Of which I did, until he immediately raced around me so that I was now following him to the elevators.

At the elevators we said goodbye. When the doors closed I reached down to smooth my skirt to find out that my dress was completely tucked inside of my pantyhose. HORROR!!!!

No wonder he rushed around me, he was embarrassed to walk behind me down the corridors and through several "bull pen" style desks and offices. Full of working staff, including the girl I was about to replace.

I got the job! In December, at the office Christmas party, it comes out. Everyone knew about the "new girl". Apparently the previous employee that I replaced didn't come back to work after that day. She told co-workers that she couldn't compete with that "employment tactic".

Posted by: KLH | Sep 6, 2005 4:12:36 PM

Was interviewing a person for a job who was informed that he had to pass a security test. He mentioned that he had one conviction and it was for using obscene language (an offence in my country)which a police office had trump up because of his interest in the persons' wife so i gave the person an agreeement to hire him( he met all the other qualifications). The person who reconmended him to me was asked " how come you sent someone with a record to me? his response " Oh God you mean that the car thieving offence on record!" needless to say that the person was terminated before he started

Posted by: dont tell | Sep 6, 2005 4:24:49 PM

To KLH:
No wonder your dress was tucked into your pantyhose! Those things can happen when you are "sitting with my potential employer in a very big lounge-type leather chair". I've heard of the "starlet's couch", but this one takes the prize! Was it as good for you as it was for him?

Posted by: ABC | Sep 6, 2005 4:42:16 PM

To KLH:
No wonder your dress was tucked into your pantyhose! Those things can happen when you are "sitting with my potential employer in a very big lounge-type leather chair". I've heard of the "starlet's couch", but this one takes the prize! Was it as good for you as it was for him?

Posted by: ABC | Sep 6, 2005 4:43:16 PM

During an interview I had several years ago, I was sitting with my potential employer in a very big lounge-type leather chair. After about an hour of speaking, we stood up, shook hands and he politely gestured me to leave his office first. Of which I did, until he immediately raced around me so that I was now following him to the elevators.

At the elevators we said goodbye. When the doors closed I reached down to smooth my skirt to find out that my dress was completely tucked inside of my pantyhose. HORROR!!!!

No wonder he rushed around me, he was embarrassed to walk behind me down the corridors and through several "bull pen" style desks and offices. Full of working staff, including the girl I was about to replace.

I got the job! In December, at the office Christmas party, it comes out. Everyone knew about the "new girl". Apparently the previous employee that I replaced didn't come back to work after that day. She told co-workers that she couldn't compete with that "employment tactic".

Posted by: KLH | Sep 6, 2005 5:38:34 PM

I once went in for a interview and I kept getting the feeling that I had met the the interviewer before. I could tell that he had the same feeling. Then it dawned on us both where we had met before. I had physically thrown him out of a bar I had worked at as a doorman when he had accosted a waitress. Of course I didn't get the job, lol.

Posted by: TSH | Sep 6, 2005 6:15:30 PM

This is not an amusing story, but it may help someone get through a sticky situation during an interview.

In retrospect several of us realized that we had been the victims of a house cleaning by the GM. We will never know why it happened, and even though we had been hired by this person and reported to him we had never been accepted as a participating member of his staff.

Several months later I was interviewing for a management position and was asked why I left my last position. Trying to be perfectly honest I explained the situation, complete with examples of how, not just me, but others as well had taken our positions very seriously, but all attempts to be a team member had failed. We had been asked to bring the company up to speed with the latest in manufacturing concepts, but suggestions were rejected or ignored.

Midway into the conversation I realized that the more I said the more this sounded like sour grapes, and I quickly realized that no matter how bad a situation is there is no way you can explain it to a potential employer without sounding defensive and planting a seed of doubt in the interviewer's mind.

It is best to determine a quick, honest, with no detail reason for leaving your last job. No matter how big a jerk a boss is you almost can never make your case stick.

Posted by: Roy | Sep 7, 2005 2:24:48 PM

i am an m,s,w, social worker. iam also an actress,comedic and serious and belong to s.a.g. and equity.

Posted by: jjean birnkrant | Sep 7, 2005 3:47:19 PM

i am an m,s,w, social worker. iam also an actress,comedic and serious and belong to s.a.g. and equity.

Posted by: jeanne ann birnkrant | Sep 7, 2005 3:48:36 PM

I received a phone call for a job with the local school district in my area (which somebody I know works for.)and we have caller ID, so I automatically assumed it was that person, so I answer the phone and say, "What do you want?" (In that "what now!" tone of voice) and it wasn't who I thought it was after all! She said, "Uh, I was calling to see if you wanted to come in for a job interview for the position you applied for. I was so mortified! I apologized on the phone and in the interview when we met face to face.

Posted by: Staci | Sep 7, 2005 5:24:22 PM

I was doing interviewing for a network engineering position for a government agency not long ago. One of the peeople we interviewed had brought along samples of his documentation work from a previous company. While this is not in and of itself horrid, as network documentation is a persnickety and detail-oriented business, the gotcha that had the interviewing team staring at each other in silent disbelief was that he had not removed any information at all from any of the documents.

In the IT world, IP addresses, interface information, and hostname information are very much proprietary and sensitive information that does not leave the company doors. They are shredded when obsolete and are kept on a need-to-know basis, because a hacker with a network map that includes IP's can wreak merry havoc with your network. And this guy was blithely showing off another company's unedited network maps without a care in the world!

Needless to say, he was not hired, and the head of the interview team had a few quiet words with his recruiter, I'm told.

Posted by: Andi | Sep 9, 2005 10:57:21 PM

Thad: On falling over the beanbag chair, I've found that the right reaction to such a mishap can create a very favorable impression of you -- pick yourself up, straighten the bean bag, apologize, and continue as if nothing had happened. It shows poise and grace under pressure.

Posted by: Andi | Sep 9, 2005 11:09:39 PM

To: A Real Technical Writer.
I hope your Technical writings are proofed before they go out. I noticed alot of mistakes in your post.

Posted by: Bob | Sep 12, 2005 8:37:19 AM

these are the greatest storys ever

Posted by: hrk | Mar 6, 2007 10:28:10 AM

I was wondering, do employers appreciate persistance today? I had a few interviews with a large employer and then all of a sudden they had budget cuts after telling me I was their top employer and the only one to interview with the CEO. Is that a polite way of telling me to go away or should I continue to stay in touch with the company. I really do want the job but still looking for others. I just wondered how much effort to put into it??

Posted by: Marleigh Gatley | Mar 10, 2007 5:12:07 PM

Had an interview for a federal sales position a few weeks ago. The Regional Manager flew in to Seattle and I met him in the bar of the hotel he was staying at for the interview. During the interview he slamed two glasses of wine. That was a new one on me.

Posted by: RB | Mar 12, 2007 2:10:38 AM

I had an interview in WI a few weeks ago for a sales position.

Prior to the face-to-face meeting I had a telephone interview with their Sales Trainer who was also the Recruiter and immediately following that conversation I had a phone interview with the VP of Sales.

Following the phone interview with the VP of Sales I was told to prepare a PowerPoint presentation and a business plan for the face-to-face meeting which would include interviews with the CEO, VP of Sales, and other senior management.

After a 6 hour flight to WI and a 5 minute meeting with the VP of Sales at their office I was told that I was not qualified for the position.

Posted by: RB | Mar 12, 2007 2:19:22 AM

I went to an interview for a job that seemed perfect for me.Unfortunately, the first question asked at the interview was, "Tell me about yourself. Do you have a family?" I politely replied, "If you dont mind, I would prefer to discuss my qualifications for the job" The interviewer said that was fine, and the rest of the interview went well. I was offered the job and turned it down. Even after I turned it down, they called a couple times to make sure that was my final descision. It was.

Posted by: Mindy | Mar 12, 2007 4:14:38 PM

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