Entrepreneurs

Readers’ Stories of Job Interviews Gone Terribly Wrong

Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues–everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

My readers recently shared some of the weirdest or worst behavior they’ve ever seen from job candidates. Here are 10 of my favorites.

“I worked at a very small nonprofit with only about 8-10 employees, several of them part-time. We desperately needed an IT person. During a group interview of a young, techie candidate, the director asked him, ‘How would your current supervisor describe you, in a couple of words?’

His answer: ‘Oh, I guess, loose cannon.’ He didn’t get the job.”

“I asked a candidate to clarify something on his resume. He told me that if I had been paying attention, I would know the answer. It turned out the confusion stemmed from the fact his resume contained several major errors. (He was applying for a copy editing job.) When I pointed that out, he said, ‘Oh yeah, my wife mentioned that too. I told her to fix it, I guess she didn’t.'”

“Apparently an interviewee was given the advice to sit on the same side of the table as the interviewer. Once I entered and sat down across from her, she got up and moved to the chair right next to me. It felt so awkward and too close. She could see my notes and files in front of me and I felt like I couldn’t take the notes I wanted because she was literally right at my elbow.

I should have asked her to move but I was so new at recruiting, interviewing and hiring at the time I just kind of froze and tried to work with it.”

“I phone interviewed someone once for a low level PR position who sounded as though he was in an echo-y room when he answered (this was a scheduled phone interview). Initially I brushed it off as maybe a cell phone issue or that he was in a lobby somewhere or a cafeteria. Well, after about 15 minutes, I figured it out when I hear the loud whoosh of a toilet as he’s explaining the outcome of a project he worked on. I interrupted him and said, ‘Excuse me, was that a toilet?’ He claimed he was near a public restroom and apologized for the interruption, but I was skeptical. And then -another whoosh, but this one was louder almost as if the phone was held near the toilet. Then a minute later as I’m fumbling trying to end the interview, and as if on cue, I hear water rushing from a faucet. Needless to say he didn’t make it to the in-person interview.”

“Because I used to get about 500-600 applicants every time a file clerk was posted, I started putting one prescreening question.

The question was ‘Rate your interest in the following job duties: Filing.’ It was the only job duty listed, since it was the only duty of the job. The only options were ‘interested’ and ‘not Interested.’ I could usually weed out two-thirds of the applicants because they would put ‘not interested.'”

“While working in HR, I had a gentleman come to my desk and request an application. After I explained that we did not have applications and he could apply from our website, but before I could offer him the use of one of our computers, he stormed out the door.

About five minutes later, one of the security guards came and asked if we had just had a visitor. It turned out that after leaving our office, this person had been so mad about not being able to get a paper application that he peed all over our elevator. The elevator only went to one floor, which means somehow he managed to pee, finish, and zip back up before the elevator reached the bottom floor.”

One of the interview questions for a student position was “Tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments or successes, at work, school, or in your personal life.” Response: “Hole in one while golfing.” I prompted the student to expand on that, maybe this was the result of lots of hard work and practice? Nope. He proudly explained that it was during only the third or fourth time playing, and had never happened since.

That was one time I really wanted to give constructive interview skills feedback.”

8. “Campin, huntin, fishin and fightin”

“I used to hire entry level candidates for customer service positions. One of the standard questions I had to ask was the standard ‘tell me about your greatest strengths’ and on candidate responded, ‘Campin, huntin, fishin and fightin.'”

“We flew in a candidate for a sales position. He would be working out of state so spent the day being shown various parts of the company, meeting with the local sales team, etc. At the end of the day, he was to meet with three of the owners and the COO for the more formal part of the interview process.

As he was waiting in the front office to be called into the meeting, the woman behind the front desk asked how his day had gone so far…small talk. In the most condescending tone ever, he called her “honey” and told her he didn’t have time to chat because he was preparing for a meeting with “the big boys.”

The woman? The majority owner. She was waiting for the meeting to start and was looking for a pen or something at the front desk.

What she didn’t know at that time is when he’d been introduced to me as the IT head hours earlier he said, “So chicklet, I guess you’re the one who’s going to be taking care of me” and then cocked his fingers like a gun and did the little shooting gesture at me while making clicking noises with his mouth while winking. It’s really hard to describe but you all know that gesture! He thought it was charming. It wasn’t.

Spoiler alert: he wasn’t hired.

10. Not that kind of achievement

“We once received a super long cover letter that included the fact that the candidate had been proudly celibate for several years.”

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to [email protected].

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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