Bad job interviews are all too common. If you’ve ever looked for work, you no doubt have a few stories to tell.
Maybe the hiring manager just didn’t show, or the human resources representative asked you questions that were flat-out illegal. Perhaps the company gave you the opportunity to meet with several of your prospective teammates … unaware that your conversation with them would give you serious doubts about the company culture.
Most of these episodes are pretty mundane — it just didn’t work out, that’s all. Hardly worth mentioning to your friends, except as a caution if they’re interviewing at the same employer. But sometimes … things get downright strange in that conference room. People break out into song, or make you conduct your entire interview from a tiny phone booth, or start showing off their scars like Captain Quint.
If you’ve ever had a bizarre experience during a job interview, you’ll relate to these weird job interview stories, shared with us on social media (and in one memorable case, with the public on Reddit).
The best part is, not all of them led to a professional dead end. Several of the folks in these tales went on to work for the companies in question, even enjoying their tenure at the employer.
Weird Job Interview Stories From Job Seekers
1. No Married Ladies Need Apply
When interviewing for a secretarial position with an ad agency in Chicago, I was told that it was expected to go out for drinks on Friday evenings with the crowd, and that getting married would mean the end of the job. Fortunately, laws changed soon after, so such behavior would not be acceptable now.
– Christine Larson, former administrative assistant
2. There Are Different Rules for Children’s Librarians
I broke into “5 Green and Speckled Frogs” and, frankly, I think it got me the job. (As a children’s librarian.)
– Meghan, librarian
3. Do You Really Want to Work for Someone Who Asks Stupid Questions?
In 2009, I was asked why I was unemployed. I didn’t know how to recap the U.S. economic collapse in a job interview. Freaking astounding.
– Beth, HR representative
4. Like Being Superman, Only It’s Not Super
I showed up for an interview once at an agency with three people — all of which it turned out were out of the office that day (various reasons, from personal to work travel). So, the HR guy had me sit in a phone call room (like one of those tiny “privacy” rooms in big offices) and do three calls with them from there. I was so thrown I totally blew the interview with one gal that I’m sure squashed all chances of getting hired.
– Sandy B., copywriter
5. A Sign That You Should Raise Your Expectations … and Apply Elsewhere
I was told to lower my expectations on salary by the hiring manager. His exact quote, “This is Raleigh, not New York.” Even though I had told the recruiter my range, and the recruiter assured me I was within range.
– Anne, marketing director
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6. Again, Singing During Job Interviews Isn’t Always the Wrong Move
At the very end of a final interview for a job in a city planning department, I was asked – jokingly – by the planning director (who had a bluegrass band) if I could play the mandolin. I said no, but that I could sing “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” and did. I got the job.
– John, planning technician, city government
7. The Story We All Aspire to Tell one Day
After a five-minute phone call, they arranged to fly me from Manchester to Paris. After successfully navigating my way through passport control, I spent an hour on the metro and buses to arrive at the office. When I got there my interviewer was in a conference call arranging a seminar. He just said to chill out on a seat in the office until he was finished.
Twenty minutes later, we have a quick chat before he asks if I am hungry. I say yes, so out we march to a sushi bar around the corner. The interview continues with a few beers and some very general questions about the field I am working in.
After lunch, we go back to the office and he hands me over to a HR person who tells me about all the wonderful benefits I would receive when I was officially offered the position. Then I was set free to enjoy Paris for the rest of the day.
All in all, quite a nice interview!
– Menchimenchi, shared on Reddit
8. Chalk This Up to “Things Job Seekers Can’t Control”
I have several stories:
1. Hiring manager was fired just before the company was about to make me an offer and 2. HR rep called and asked me to wait two weeks for an offer. Exactly two weeks later, the [parent company] announced the company was getting acquired and 50 percent of the staff was laid off.
Each of these resulted in no job offers for me!
– Jen B., product manager
9. Nosy Doesn’t Help Me Get a Job, Madam
When I was unemployed and going back and forth between Philly and NY looking for work, I went on an interview for an ad agency. They had no idea why I was there and the guy I was supposed to speak to was nowhere to be found (this was in New York; I had taken the bus in from Philly specifically for this). Some random woman I guess took pity on me and started asking questions. When I asked if she needed to see my resume she said, “Nah, just being nosy.” I left shortly thereafter, completely demoralized.
– Sarah, editor
Weird Job Interview Stories From the Other Side of the Table
1. A Word of Advice: Do Not Remove Your Clothing During a Job Interview
I once interviewed a man who told me that the reason that he had been unemployed was because he had been injured by a boat motor propeller. He then stood up and started unbuttoning his shirt to show me!
– Alison D., HR manager
2. Some People Aren’t Great With Confrontation Or Manners or Dealing With Life
I was interviewing and offered someone the job. They went to the car to get their paperwork and never came back.
There was also the person who was interviewing for a surgical tech position in the company that I was hiring for and she listed cutting tomatoes at Burger King as a surgical skill.
– Robin Rice, practice manager of a surgery center
3. Sir, We Would Like to Extend a Job Offer … to Your Wife
When asked what he had done that he was most proud of, [one candidate] said it was when his wife had their child. Huh? HE didn’t do that. He wasn’t even in the room when she had it. His “doing” stopped nine months before the baby was born.
Actually, I got his resume twice more. Once about 18 months later when that job didn’t work out, and then again a year later when the next job didn’t work out. Yeah, he was not really into the idea of doing something himself, apparently.
– Christine Larson, director of training for information technology
4. On the Upside, the Interview Team Went in on a Really Nice Blender
I have a 10-minute session where I ask candidates to “Teach me something” to see their communication skills and how they tie it back to the work. Doesn’t have to be a work topic (like they could team me how to make pancakes, so long as they are articulate and bonus points for connecting something from the lesson back to the job).
One guy came in (mind you the room is FULL of everyone from the interview panel, plus members of the teams this person might work with) and he literally spend 10 minutes reciting his rather religious marriage vows to us. And that was the entire presentation… what?
– Sarah D., senior manager at a web publisher
5. Honestly, Most Working Parents Have Felt Like This
I interviewed someone who, in the middle of the interview, broke down during what was otherwise going well and said something to the effect of, “I’m just a new mom and don’t really know what I want to do with my life!”
It turns out she was trying to blow the interview and getting frustrated that it was going well. She knew she was going to move in a few months, but she was also getting unemployment and couldn’t turn down a job offer.
– Elizabeth, senior analyst at a tech company
Stories have been lightly edited for style and clarity. Some names have been changed or withheld to protect the innocent.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you have some weird job interview stories to share? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.
Jen Hubley Luckwaldt