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Your Worst Interview Story

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Job FairGrantland, a site that’s mostly about sports and sometimes about life, has a series called Readers’ Revenge where they share stories from their readers around a common topic – they recently tackled the worst interview stories. There are a few gems in there and while half of them are about drug testing, they do share some pretty ridiculous stories that almost seem unbelievable. At least one is probably more urban myth than reality (the one where the drug testee puts blue toilet water in the test).

I personally never had a bad interview as the person being interviewed, I chalk that up to interviewing with very boring companies. It’s hard to get interesting interviews when it’s for a white collar software job at an enormous defense company. They’re well versed on the intricacies of harassment, taboo questions, and all the other mistakes that create these great interviews. I was part of a really bad interview in which the candidate was clearly unqualified for the job. The job was that of a software developer and the resume looked good, he came well recommended on a personal level, and I genuinely felt bad for him because I liked the guy. That made everything worse.

The team was responsible for delivering a standalone workflow application that used a Microsoft SQL server. So you needed to know SQL, which is the query language used to interface with the database. It’s not hard to learn once you get the basics and the tricky part, as is always the case with database applications, is optimizing it. There aren’t really any of the tricky things that can trip you up with other languages – no objects, no inheritance, etc. The guy had SQL on his resume in his list of skills, so we threw him a softball of a question – we told him we had two tables, something like a table that had user credentials (username, id, password, user level, active, etc.) and a table of user information (first name, last name, extension, department, etc.) and we wanted him to give us a query that gave us the first and last names of everyone in the system.

It’s a query and we just wanted him to get close. We liked the guy so it really became a ten minute instruction in SQL, which he admitted later that he hadn’t spent a ton of time on. The worst part was that the other interviewer in there with me is the nicest guy in the world but an absolute SQL beast (I don’t know if you still read this site but Geoff, but I’m talking about you) – so you could see even he was getting frustrated.

That interview was long… suffice it to say he didn’t get the job.

So… what’s your worst interview story?

(Photo: stevendepolo)

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14 Responses to “Your Worst Interview Story”

  1. K says:

    I went to an interview at a car dealership and when the interviewer made an offer and it was far below what was standard in the area. When I tried to open up a discussion on negotiating by indicating this, his face turned bright red and the veins started throbbing in his neck and tore up my resume and application and gave me a hateful stare and said we were done.

    Under other circumstances, I would have thanked him for his time and consideration, but not only was he rude and unprofessional, he was downright scary so I got the heck out of there without saying another word.

  2. Courtney says:

    Mine isn’t really awful either, but I interviewed with a scientific products company once that asked me to come give a presentation from scratch on 4 days notice (I had already done a phone interview). They grilled me for half an hour on the presentation, and then I met with five different people on the team and interviewed with each one individually. One of them hadn’t even read my resume. He read it while asking me questions from behind the piece of paper and never made eye contact. Another was an arrogant guy who asked me when I would be done with my PhD, and when I gave him the date (4 weeks in the future) said “yeah, we’ll see.” After the interview they asked me to write a two-page article, also from scratch.

    After all those hoops, I didn’t get the job.

  3. Scott says:

    I had one in college with a very large services provider you all would recognize from any major sports venue or college or other place with big catering and uniform needs. I showed up 5 minutes early, there was no one ahead of me, and the lady asked me to wait in the hallway. She then proceeded to make 15 minutes of phone calls (with the door open so I could hear her), some for business and some personal, meaning my interview started 10 minutes late. Then proceeded some of the worst questions ever asked by an interviewer in my own experience, followed by her recommending me to one of their divisions for which it turns out later I was not qualified. Completely unprofessional and completely clueless. I abstain as much as possible from buying any food at any sporting venue where they operate now. Goes to show that conducting a bad interview has farther reaching implications than just not getting the person hired.

  4. Marilyn says:

    Not really a bad interview but…I was hired to be a secretary/office contact in a science department at a small college. I was not a union member, had never worked in this kind of position. The boss liked me and hired me. The union challenged my hiring, I had to take a three hour stenographic test–I am an honors graduate in Psychology-stenography, I don’t think so. I flunked and the challenge lady got my job.
    Lesson learned. I was later hired back to be the administrator for a new program at the college–so good did come out of it.

  5. David S says:

    SELECT [FirstName], [LastName] FROM [UserInfo] JOIN [UserCred] ON [UserInfo].[UserID] == [UserCred].[ID]

    Anyway I cannot think of any bad interviews but I think that is due to being interested in what the job is and what the person interviewing me does (they were all technical people).

  6. Lee says:

    My worst interview was one where I took off the afternoon for the interview. I interviewed with a bunch of people and the interviews seemed to go pretty well.

    I then went directly home and checked my mail and removed the rejection letter. I called my contact and was assured that all letters are sent out after the interview. Apparently there was a slip in the time stream and I lost a day during the 15 minute drive.

  7. KaseyS says:

    I was in an interview for a content writer position at a marketing firm, but was trying to sell my skills as a video producer/editor at the same time.

    I’d already met with the President of the firm twice. He was a friend of my family, and things had gone really well. I thought I was a shoe-in.

    Then I met with the hiring manager and told her I thought I’d be bored just writing all the time. Woops! Didn’t get that job. And I could tell by the look on her face right after I said it.

  8. Jenn Cloud says:

    I won my current job from a competition and the finalists were narrowed down in a big event that was simply called a “meetup.” Being a moron, I didn’t put 2 & 2 together to realize that this wasn’t just some hanging-out day camp orientation thing, it was our first round of interviews!

    I show up in my casual weekday best: a tanktop, patchwork skirt and FLIP FLOPS. That was bad enough, but then we had to do the circuit. We basically had demonstrate our ability to do parts of the job across a handful of different stations where we had about 5 minutes in each. I completely mangled the “sales” station, embarrassed myself to a big local radio personality in the “radio interview” station, completely over-estimated the length of 1 minute in the “video” station–but wrote a pretty decent blog entry and apparently presented to the VPs of Marketing and Sales well enough…

    I left that day completely demoralized though, I thought I had surely made a total fool of myself and botched this whole opportunity. …but lo and behold, I got the call that I made the top 3 finalists, and went on to win the whole competition a month later!

    The job has been a really good fit though and I know what saved me through this was the right kind of experience in my resume and a background of already loving and supporting this company. I am happy to be a testament how sometimes you can do everything WRONG and still come out the better for it!

  9. I had an interview with a company where a friend of mine worked. I took a day off work, and had to drive 2.5 hours. After 3 or 4 rounds of interviews, I left feeling that everything went really well. I answered the questions well, had the right amount and kind of experience, and seemed to be a good fit.

    It took over a week to get any kind of response, but finally my friend was able to get his bosses to reveal the truth… they were never approved to hire anyone for the opening (for budgetary reasons). They were only interviewing me “in-case” the budgeting committee were to change their mind.

    Really? Wow!

  10. My worst one was when I was in college and I decided to interview for a computer lab position. The job description gave vague details on what kind of knowledge you needed so I figured being a first year Computer Science major was enough.

    When I went for the interview, things went really well at first – until they asked me if I knew both Windows and Mac. This was back in 2003 so Macs weren’t as huge as they are now – and I had only used one a few times. I was honest and said that I only use Windows (in my classes, we were using Linux) and they told me the computer lab was Macs. I told them that I was confident I could learn it pretty fast.

    They then proceeded to put me in front of a Mac and asked me how to do simple tasks – and I could not do any of them. I couldn’t copy text, paste text, do any of that. Yes, it was extremely embarrassing. I was so pissed because I had just told them that I didn’t know how to use a Mac! Needless to say, I did not get the job and I avoided that computer lab for my whole college experience.

  11. Harold - CA@SPWCA says:

    It’s a tough market out there and unemployed really had to think outside of the box in terms of getting a job.

  12. Caspar Dioge says:

    Mine was for a college teaching job where none of the people who were supposed to interview me showed up on time. Then they ushered me into a classroom filled with broken furniture for a half hour. Then two faculty members came in and asked me questions better addressed to the head of the department, about policy and morale and how I would address it. I asked to see the radio and television studio’s where I would be teaching, only to be told it was not possible.

    I left them and asked the department secretary where the head of the department was; the one who insisted I drive all night to be there for the interview. I got a blank stare. I decided to leave and as I was walking out, the secretary came out of the office, into the stairwell that I was walking down, and offered me the job … and mentioned money … I said no …and kept walking, only to run into the chairwoman, walking in.

    The secretary, who had followed me down the stairs, introduced me by shouting loudly while pointing to me …. “Hey, Mrs. Bond … Got you a new boyfriend!!!”

    The Chair also would not show me the studio’s, saying they were locked … She offered me more money twice, but I refused until I saw the facilities.

    They still owe me money for the travel.

  13. Simon says:

    I’ve had a few bad interviews, not on my part but it was the interviewer.
    I’m a graphic artist and my very first interview in a design related field was at a local print company. The ad said “graphic artists wanted” and I was called in. I arrived 15 mins early as is customary but had to wait an hour before being called in to speak with the interviewer (company owner). He just looked at me and said “why are you here?” I said I was there for the design position and he said “Oh, we’re not really hiring for a design position. Can you lift 50 lbs and drive a forklift?” Apparently this position was carrying rolls of paper around but he said it would “get me in the door”. He asked if I had a degree (which I didn’t at the time) and he had never seen my resume or lost it (apparently someone just randomly called people out of the stack of resumes). He said I needed a degree for the job, didn’t ask me any questions and then talked for an hour about his college days and illustrious career as a print shop owner. Was quite a waste of time there. lol.


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