Crazy Job Interview Stories

Double check your attire before the interview. Trust me.

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.

Just Words!

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.

Fertility Issues

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.

Mismatched Suits

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?

 

Comments

  1. says

    I once had a guy who gave me a time limit for the interview (this was during the good old dotcom days). I was the interviewer. He had to attend another interview and he didn’t want to be late!

    How quickly times change!

  2. says

    I laughed out loud about the mismatched suit story. I’ve never done anything like that but I could totally see that happening. One of the strangest stories I have is setting up an interview for a very small consulting firm (I was a senior in college), going there, meeting the guy who was very nice, who then proceeded to tell me that he didn’t have any openings and wasn’t looking to hire anybody, but just wanted to meet people to see who was out there in the marketplace. Pretty creepy in retrospect.

  3. says

    Just because you wore mismatched clothing doesn’t mean she didn’t think you were hot. I’m sure she was still giving you the eye….

    A good friend went into an interview and sat back confidently away from the table. He thought this would make him look relaxed and knowledgeable.

    The interviewers fired questions about technical stuff, which he says he knocked out of the park. He had serious head nods from the interviewers, who seemed to also relax more and more as he sat back away from the table in his own relaxed pose.

    Only at the end of the interview did he realize his fly was gaping open the whole time.

    • Squirrelers says

      Average Joe – Ha! I think it was the clothing, not me, no matter how much I would have wanted it to be otherwise:) As for your friend – wow, that’s a nightmare interview situation. It ranks up there as about the worst appearance faux paux I would think!

  4. says

    I had a phone interview with a very major global health charitable organization. I was applying for an administrative manager level position that required experience and a masters. I had my MBA and over 10 years in health care. It seemed like a good fit, to me.
    However, to the woman who conducted the phone interview, it was apparently a waste of time. She informed me multiple times that they had people the MPH’s there doing filing just to work for this organization. In her mind, my experience and my MBA mattered not at all. To this day, I wonder how I even got the interview.
    And sadly, the attitude I faced means I will likely never apply for a job with them again.

    • Squirrelers says

      shanendoah – I’m sure many other organizations would highly value your MBA and experience. There are always some outliers that don’t get it.

      • says

        Thank you. I actually have a great job with my current company, but want to move into a more global health focused organization when I make my next job change (a few years down the road). The interview I mentioned was a few years ago, and mostly it stuck with me because it was so outside what I expected from an interview with that organization.

        • Squirrelers says

          shanendoah – I had a situation like that once, where I interviewed with a recruiter some years ago who didn’t get the concept that an MBA commands a some kind of additional value. They looked at me based on strictly years of experience, and told me “good luck” if I expected to get the type of salary I told them I wanted. Hard to believe they had that type of job and didn’t understand the market, but that’s their loss I suppose! I did get the job I was looking for soon after.

  5. says

    I once appeared for an interview where the technical interviewer couldn’t make it at all and the manager, who knew nothing technical, started asking me about few terms of java. I intentionally answered a question totally wrong, very convincingly. He was really impressed with my answer, genuinely.

    other comments are hilarious.

  6. Lea14 says

    We had a girl apply for the position of a nurse in a nursing home. She presented very casually in a loose white singlet top. When she sat down the top twisted to the side and her breast(no bra) popped out thru the armhole. The manager and myself had a very difficult time interviewing as we couldnt stop giggling. No sadly she didnt get the position.

  7. says

    A guy I worked with was telling me a story about his entry interview with one of our more eccentric upper level managers. He said the guy would ask a question and then fart really loud. He didn’t excuse himself, he just sat there waiting for my colleague to talk. He did this about 5 times during his 1 hour interview. He did end up getting the job. To this day, we don’t know if the interviewer did it on purpose as a test or just didn’t care if he farted in public.

    My husband deliberately asks questions that he knows the interviewee does not know the answer to, just to see how the person reacts.

    • Squirrelers says

      The eccentric guy story…simply incredible that anybody would do that. I guess professionalism has a different meaning to everyone. Maybe they should have handed out gas masks before the interviews. Your colleague must have been dying to get out of that room!

  8. says

    I’ve been know to ask some oddball questions myself (like, where do you like to shop for groceries?) but nothing to the level of eccentricity as your “just words!” character. Good story!

  9. Enoch says

    I recently went to a job interview at a local prison for a job as an education officer. I prepared for two weeks for the interview and was feeling pretty confident. I had this whole scenario in my head. Arrive, exchange witty banter with staff in the office and then go in and have a little chat over a cup of tea with the HR manager about me ample experience and impressive qualifications. My application had been very impressive and eloquently written and I’m not ashamed to say I knew it. I had been possessed by the demon known as Hubris and I was in for a mighty fall.

    I arrived at the prison early and and after politely greeting the receptionist I was marched through to a waiting room where I was instructed to place anything I didn’t need for the interview in a locker, which I did. A warden then came and took me to another room where I was told to empty my pockets and remove my belt and watch and jacket. These were all placed in a tray and anything forbidden was picked out and thrown away. The folder with my paperwork was opened and picked through and a CD with copies of my certificates was confiscated and never given back. I was taken through a metal detector, placed on a small dais and patted down really aggressively before then being marched through to another room. In that room a woman in a reinforce reception/office took my photograph, fingerprints and I.D. I was totally overwhelmed by the whole experience. Any attempt I made to make conversation was completely rebuffed. Thankfully, I thought to myself, I’d arrived in good time for the interview so could read through my notes and compose myself. No chance, the interview was going in one direction, and one direction alone – downwards!

    To my horror a woman from HR came down from the offices to get me and walked me straight into the interview where I was met not by some friendly woman from HR but a panel of interviewers. By now I was a gibbering wreck. The folder with my paperwork was still open and I managed to flick the contents across the room as I sat down on the far end of the big circular table. From this point onward everything that came out of my mouth was just nonsense.

    I answered the following questions as follows:

    Panel: What does the term “team player” mean to you?
    Me: It means working as part of a team.

    I stopped there for some reason and there was a horrible long silent pause.

    Panel: What does the word ?????????? mean to you?
    Me: I’m sorry, I’ve never heard that word before, so I couldn’t really say.

    Panel: Could you give us an example of a time when you resolved a conflict?
    To this question I started telling a story and then forgot what I was talking about, drifted onto talking about diversity and then suggested that gays were vindictive. I would describe the look on the panels faces as shocked. A women’s jaw just dropped and another one just said “Oh…oh”. I knew I was bombing and there was nothing I could do.

    There was a bottle of water on the table. I asked f it was for me and was told I could have it if I wanted to. I answered “Thank goodness…yes!”

    I was asked to say a little about myself and told them I wanted a career in counselling. Why on earth I said that I don’t know. I was applying for an education officer job and I told them I wanted a career as a counselor. I basically said that if I got the job I wouldn’t be around that long anyway.

    That was three days ago and I just die a little bit more inside every time I think about it all. On paper I looked great, what they were presented with at the interview was a Mr Bean impersonator.

    I will never get that job and if I ever say anyone from the panel out on the streets, I’d run and hide out of sheer shame. My advice, avoid hubris, try hard not to imagine just one single interview scenario and then prepare ONLY for that scenario and take a moment to think before answering a question instead of jumping straight in and talking complete bollocks!

    • Jay says

      A few days ago I had what I consider the worst interview I have ever had. I had prepared for it for over a week and felt very confident and comfortable about this position as I have been out of work for a few months.

      I arrived almost half an hour early and was feeling very relaxed and confident up until I was taking to the room where the interview was to take place. There were three women sitting across from me but to my horror I realized that the woman in charge was the spitting image of my previous boss who I really disliked and who was the main reason I had quitted my previous job. This woman not only looked but acted and sounded similar.

      Needless to say I could not get rid off this image throughout most of the interview and it got to the point that I started to mumble and stumble in a few of my answers. In the end I had to excuse myself and left place altogether.

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