Have you ever had a job interview that ended up being a bit crazy or unusual in some way?
Job interviews can be quite the experience. Sometimes they can be exciting, due to the opportunity in front of you. They might also be stressful too, for that same reason – the opportunity – as well as the idea that everything you say or do is getting folded up into a giant judgement on whether or not the organization wants you.
Other times, job interviews can be interesting adventures.
I was talking to a friend about an interview he had, and he relayed how he had an experience he had recently that didn’t fit within the range of standard interview protocol. At first it was stressful for him, but turned out to be one that he could laugh at chalk up as a funny interview story. We’ll call him “Tom”.
The way he told it, he went into an interview for a corporate position, for an upper-middle management position with an organization that seemed typically corporate. He talked a few different people on his interview schedule, then settled in with the guy that would be his boss if he got the job. The guy apparently seemed normal enough at first, asking some challenging questions but being cool with his reactions to Tom’s answers. Then, after some situation specific questions (tell the time you faced X challenge, Y obstacle, etc), the guy flipped out to Tom’s responses.
“Just Words!” the guy barked at my buddy.
Tom apparently didn’t know what to say. He’s a hard working guy who’s probably really good at what he does, but he was taken aback by the guy’s comment. What did he mean?
So, the interviewer proceeded with another question, listened to my friend’s, response, and again fired back with “Just Words!”
Tom wondered what he could have possibly said to cause the sudden change in the interviewer’s behavior.
A few more questions were asked, and Tom’s answers were met with a much louder and direct response, this time shortened to “J.W.!” Nothing else was said each time. Apparently the guy was shaking his head as he was saying it. The interview concluded soon thereafter, and Tom interpreted the guy’s responses to mean that he was providing “words” but nothing concrete in his answers. As in, all empty words but nothing specific in terms of good answers to how he handled past experiences.
He didn’t get the job, but at least he can laugh at it. Probably helps that he’s doing well in his career anyway.
The conversation with the friend I mentioned above got me thinking about another friend that told me about a time he went for an interview at a company where he too had a full schedule and a bunch of people to talk to. Eventually, he got to an interview with someone who was quite high up on the ladder there. This interview was when the friend – we’ll call him “Carl” – was just out of school.
Carl finished up his discussion with the prior person on his schedule, and he or she walked Carl over to the office of this next individual. The guy he was to interview with seemed gruff, and told the person who brought Carl there to have him wait outside his office for a few minutes. There was nowhere to sit, so Carl just stood outside the office. He wasn’t trying to listen to anything, but he quickly noticed that the guy was making a phone call. No big deal, right?
Well, apparently the guy was making a personal call where he was very loudly yelling at someone at a doctor’s office or laboratory. He was shouting about how he and his wife have been trying to have a baby, that this was their “third time” (whatever that meant). He expressed very loudly that he didn’t know why this problem couldn’t be solved, and seemed quite displeased at something the person/entity on the other end of the call had done. According to Carl, people in the cubes outside the office were looking at each other mouths open in amazement. Meanwhile, Carl was standing there alone, wearing his suit and waiting for the door to open so he can get an interview with this guy.
He said that he heard the phone slam loudly, and a few expletives uttered. Then, after a few moments, the guy opened the door with a big smile and was super nice. He acted like he was having a great day, and was really friendly.
Weird, eh? In retrospect, Carl sincerely felt bad for the guy, as those were some understandably sensitive personal issues that he and his wife must have been dealing with. At the time though, he felt like he was dealing with a split personality and couldn’t wait to high tail it out of there.
This gets me thinking of my own crazy interview stories. The most notable one was my fault entirely. It was back in school, and I had an interview scheduled at the bright and early time of 8:00am. It was on campus, held in interview rooms at the school’s placement office. Companies regularly came to interview students, and I was no exception.
Anyway, I have to say that I was a bit different then in that I wasn’t used to getting up before 7:00am for much of anything as a college student. I generally scheduled my classes for 9:15am or later, to accommodate the typical college student lifestyle and hours. So getting up bleary eyed at 6:30am to get ready was probably a risky move anyway, but it was either that or no interview. Obviously, I chose the interview.
I got the interview waiting room a few minutes before 8:00am, and noticed that another student – a drop dead gorgeous girl – was looking at me and glancing away alternately with a sly look. I thought “awww yeah….this is my day!”. It was flattering and seemed to mean that it was going to be a good day if nothing else. I felt confident as I kept waiting for the interview.
For whatever reason, as I waited the thought occurred to me that I should just take a quick look to make that I was put together before the interviewer came out and called my name. I looked down to see that my shoes were tied, nothing was amiss, etc. Then, I froze. Next, I did a double take. Make that a triple take.
Getting up early (for me at that time), I apparently must have had a lot of cobwebs to shake out that didn’t get shaken out. I realized that somehow, some way, I had pants from one suit and a jacket form another suit. One was gray with pinstripes, the other was dark blue.
Uh, no wonder that girl in the waiting room kept looking. I went from pumped up to feeling like a complete clown. How the heck can anybody possibly do something like this? I’ve always been responsible and known for having my head in the game, but felt like a bozo at that moment. I wanted to hide.
Once I got called by the interviewer, I got up and just did whatever I could to make direct eye contact with her the whole time. As we got to the interview room, I sat close to the table and leaned forward, so the interviewer wouldn’t notice my total screwup in mismatched suits. Additionally, I was tried to keep the conversation going as much as possible. When the interview was over, and she walked me out the room, I made sure to trail her – walking a step behind so she had as little time as possible to notice anything.
The crazy part about all this: I actually got an internship offer from them a week later!
Unbelievable. You know, I wish I could’ve saved that luck for now that I’m much older!
My Questions for You
Have you ever been in a job interview that was a bit funny or crazy, whichever side of the desk you were on?
Have you heard of any people dealing with any strange things in job interviews?
Have you ever made any embarrassing mistakes in an interview, that you can at least laugh at now?