Interviews, Watercooler

5 Interview Horror Stories That Will Make You Cringe

Once upon a time, after a promising in-person interview at a company that had flown me across the country to their headquarters, I got a follow-up email from a hiring manager letting me know that, although he didn’t get the chance to meet me in person, he was very interested in discussing an open position on his team with me.

Excited, I did all of my prep work — reviewing my resume, researching my interviewer, and doing a mock-interview with my friend. When the time approached, I smiled confidently. I knew I had this in the bag. My phone began to ring, and I eagerly picked it up.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Hello, is this uh… um…” the hiring manager stammered.

“…Emily?” I offered.

“Yeah, Emily! That’s right,” he said.

The experience didn’t get any better from there. He admitted shortly after that he didn’t bother to read my resume, couldn’t pay attention to anyone for more than 30 seconds without spacing out, and that he didn’t know if we would get along. So imagine my shock when he offered me the job (and then asked who he should contact to file the new hire paperwork). Somehow, I managed to turn that tempting offer down, but I still tell that story to this day.

And I know I’m not alone in this. Over the years, I’ve heard a wide range of entertaining and unbelievable interview stories. So I got to thinking: what wild interview stories might Glassdoor readers have to share?

After reaching out through our blog and social media channels, we’ve collected a few best-of-the-worst interview stories, of course with the promise of anonymity. Read on below — and try not to wince.

1. The Sardine Surprise

“I was a [first] year lawyer and I interviewed at one of the largest, most prestigious firms in my geographic area. Upon arriving and parking my car in the garage, I stepped in an open can of sardines, and spent the next 15 minutes trying to rid my interview shoes (I only wore these heels for interviews) of the sardine smell. Needless to say, as nervous as I was about the stench, I managed to toughen it up, nail the interview, and get the job offer.” 

2. The Flirting Fiasco

“I was interviewing for an administrative position at a rather large HVAC company. I was talking to the (male) manager in his office and a male employee busted in and said ‘[Has] he hit on you yet? He does that all the time.’

I don’t know if it was a test, [but] I know I had a stunned/mortified look on my face. Never did hear from them again.”

3. The Forgotten Name Faux Pas

One Glassdoor reader simply forwarded us this sassy email exchange (note: names, job titles, departments, and companies have been changed for the sake of anonymity).

Hi Sarah,

I just wanted to say thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to interview me for the marketing internship. Christiansen Global Logistics sure seems like a pleasant place to work! Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Best,

Matt

Matt,

It was nice to meet you yesterday. Unfortunately, I’m afraid you effectively took yourself out of consideration for the position when you asked me what my name was at the end of the interview. Pointer for future interviews: when you set up an interview with someone you want to work for, remember her name. And even if you forget it or don’t know it, don’t ask.

I wish you the best of luck going forward.

Sarah

Sorry about that. Cindy didn’t tell me that I would be interviewing with you, so the first time I heard your name was when you told me at the beginning of the interview. I’m terrible at remembering names until I’ve heard them at least twice. Thanks for the advice.

-Matt

Sure. And I double checked with her before emailing you; she did mention my name to you on the phone when setting up the interview. I recognize that you applied for 2 different positions but it should have been obvious by the end of our talk that I run the marketing program. And you could have simply gone online and looked me up.

I’m terrible at names as well but I’ve learned over the years that you need to pretend to know then and figure them out later if at all possible. And do your research before coming to an organization by looking at all the names/positions so you know who you’re meeting.

4. The Kiddie Conundrum

“A hiring manager wanted to stop the interview to go pick up her kids. She became annoyed when I suggested rescheduling the interview because I said I did not want to interfere with her responsibilities as a parent. I guess the hiring manager expected me to sit there alone for at least 30 minutes waiting instead of rescheduling.”

5. The Law Firm Flop

“I got called in for an interview at a local law firm. I knew something was off when I got to the building — the first floor was completely derelict and abandoned! I followed a trail of paper signs up to their third-floor office, where I had to ask an employee sitting at a desk who I should notify that I had arrived (since there was no one at the front desk). A recruiter invited me into her office shortly after, where she was cooking ramen. In the midst of tending to her instant noodles, she asked me questions designed for a different position than the one I had applied for. Then, a girl in pajamas came in to administer a writing test, which was a sample of the day-to-day work I would be doing. It lasted two hours and was so boring that I nearly got up in the middle of it and left. Nevertheless, I pushed through and finished it. When they offered the position to me a few days later, I declined — thank goodness!”

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