Interview Horror Stories
This week one of Maxwell Stephens’s candidates had a very embarrassing situation in an interview. He was told that in the event of a fire, he should head to the skip in the car park. However he misheard and thought the receptionist wanted him to stand by the skip to wait for the interviewer, so he did…
He is feeling a little embarrassed about the whole situation, so we wanted to make him feel better by asking our other candidates if they had any interview horror stories. We are sharing the best ones (anonymously!) here on our website, so everyone can feel better about their interview mishaps.
I went into the interview to find 4 people, one sat in each corner of the room and a swivel chair in the middle. Three asked questions and one made notes. At the end of the interview, the one making the notes told me why I wasn’t getting the job.
A long.. long… long time ago interviewing for a position, eagerly leaning forward at the desk to show attentive enthusiasm to the interviewers line of questioning, in an open plan office, seated on a task chair with castors, unbeknown on a slippery wooden floor. Hanging on every word to listen to the softly spoken interviewer, the chair tipped forward… then flew backwards and unceremoniously dumped me in a heap in the interviewers lap..
My recommendation: do you risk assessment and for any meeting, maintain vertical control and ensure you have firm footings. Slips ups aren’t just limited to dialogue..
Been there done something like that before but my horror story lies around a bad journey 5 hours (traffic and breakdown) but getting there on time to be met by the interviewer who comment was good to meet you just wanted to see what you looked like and said interview over .
500 mile round trip for no more than 2 minutes didn’t get the job either and never applied for a role with that company again.
I was once interviewed for a Job with a local authority that didn’t go very well.
I came in, was introduced to the panel and then began answering their questions as normal. During my repose to the second question which was about dealing with negative feedback one of the panel looked pained.
I thought jeezoh my answer must have been terrible but continued on regardless confident that I could pull it back. The panel member then winced and sucked her teeth. This time the other panel member picked up on what was going on and turned to her colleague.
It was then that it happened the panel member with the teeth sucking/wincing, let out the most tremendous blast of flatulence. Myself and the non-wincing panel member just sat there agog in a state of disbelief and awkwardness. The gaseous wincer looked relived at first but then suddenly darted out of the room clutching her belly almost knocking me from my perch of incredulity.
The non-wincer turned to me after her colleague had departed and said “She was at a BBQ at the weekend, probably under cooked chicken” and we then continued the interview.
Needless to say I was quite disturbed by the whole affair and did not get the job but I do make sure to thoroughly cook all of my BBQ food in the oven first.
It was 1986, I was fresh out of an engineering degree that the wine, women and need for money and independence prevented me from completing. The interview was with a Hotel Manager, a lady, in a vacant/converted bedroom. As the interview came to a conclusion I stood up to depart and felt something crawling down my leg (not up). What ended up resting on my shoe were yesterday’s underpants! I noticed, she noticed and the room became very small and very warm!
I got the job but never again put last night party trousers on without checking!
Oh and by the way, I enjoy receiving your emails, thank you.
Few years ago, after an interview with the recruiter in a luxurious hotel, I have the interview with the MD and HRD of a company that was searching a customer relationship manager.
The MD started the interview referring he only had 50 minutes so he would prefer to start asking few questions.
He started asking about differences between primary and secondary education en Spain and UK, GCSE, A levels etc
I took it as a good way to break the ice and make the conversation more fluent.
After 40 minutes, given that we were still speaking about differences between fist degrees and postgraduate levels in the two countries, I interrupted to say:
Candidate- i am sorry to interrupt, but we have 10 minutes left and I still have some questions I would like to address, related to the reason why we are here.
MD- of course , time has gone by and I really need to go in 10 minutes, please go ahead.
Candidate- What % of the total turnover does this client mean?
MD- this is confidential information, but I can only say, a very high one
Candidate- Do you think you are delivering what the client wants?
MD- I am sorry, that is a confidential question, i cannot answer at this moment.
Candidate- all right just a last one then, do you think you have the capability to deliver what the client wants?
MD- again, confidential. I am sorry.
Candidate- right, then unless you have any more questions, I have enough information to make my decision. And we still saved 5 minutes.
MD- can you let me know what is your decision?
Candidate- I am terribly sorry but it is confidential.
We shacked hands very politely and off I went.
Just a small tale to brighten the day.
Ex-military so my timings are without question, 15 minutes before the interview. My clothing was immaculate and creases to cut paper. Questions practised, and company knowledge digested. Comfortable and confident and ready, I stepped out the car and my trousers split from belt to crutch! (Been ‘commando’ for 35 years)
Couldn’t help but wonder if the interviewers would find it funny ?
I attended an interview and it became blindingly apparent that the chap interviewing me was so out of date in respect of law that I was far in excess of his knowledge. This was so obvious to me and the MD of the company also interviewing!! I didn’t get that job and I did see the interviewers role appear shortly afterwards on a job board as well!
I turned up for a role at a big multi-national as a NEBOSH – H+S Manager and I had been told I would be given a practice problem as well as an interview. A chap came out into the busy reception area, mumbled his introduction and gave me a paper with a lift re furbishing quote on. Ah Ha thinks I, the problem.
Not an issue, I can do this on the hoof, bit of chat and when I started asking about usage, working at height, wheel chair/disabled access, routes in hots works etc this guy was really impressed. It was when he asked me how much it would cost to re furbish the penny dropped. Leaning forward I saw his ID – Wrong Name!! We returned to reception to find my interviewer looking very lonely. The real interview was a laugh from start to finish! I got a job offer as well. I suspect based on comedy value.
I went for two interviews in one day with a very big multinational. The first role was well below my grade but a job is a job etc. I decided not to mention the second role as it sounded a lot higher. In the afternoon I went for the second role and in discussion it became apparent that the role was in fact that of the guy interviewing me from the morning!
I am sure there are others
This was not a horror of my making, but many years ago I had an interview with a well-known architect for a Facilities Manager position. After thirty minutes of perfectly pleasant conversation, the interview was interrupted by the architect’s assistant as there was an urgent problem that needed to be dealt with. The perfectly pleasant conversation abruptly exploded into a tirade of vicious – and I mean vicious! -swearing from the architect in question, and ended in a full-scale argument between the architect, the assistant, and the finance director (who was also in the room). Books were thrown, tables were banged, and feet were stomped…it was terrifying!!
The consultant recruiting for the position ushered me out, apologising, and promising to reschedule when things were “calmer”. Two days later I was offered the job as, apparently, they were all impressed by how cool and collected I remained during the argument! I declined, for what I hope, are obvious reasons…
I’ve sat an interview for a job for which I had prepared for several days, rehearsed all my Qs & As only to be totally thrown by all the questions fired at me. Being terribly British, I stuck it out, all the time thinking “these questions are designed to throw me, and to see how I would react under pressure. It became apparent towards the end of the interview that it had not gone well so I was not too surprised when, a few days later I got an email saying that I was unsuccessful. When I asked for feedback I noticed that they had got the job title wrong in the subject line. It then became apparent after further investigation that while I was in the right place at the right time interviewing for the right job…. the interviewer was interviewing for a totally different job.
I do have one to share with you. Some years ago I had an interview with a corporate law firm that was moving to a glamorous new office in Canary Wharf. The agent had given me the name of the firm so I googled them to get the canary wharf address. Came the day I arrived 15 minutes early, as one does, to discover a building site. A very helpful site office manager dutifully issued me (in my best suit) with the appropriate PPE while trying to find the person I was supposed to be meeting. At this point I decided it would be a good idea to call the agent, cue horrified ‘You’re WHERE?!!? Didn’t you get my email?’, to which the answer was resounding no. A forty minute dash to the city later I was sat in the interview and an hour and fifteen minutes after that I had a new job! A bad start doesn’t always mean a bad finish.
Well just this year I went to an interview for a senior position and was so aghast at this very senior, but younger, head interviewer’s suit I had to tell him. Safe to say it went downhill from then and I didn’t get a 2nd interview.
Jolly funny though.
Yes suit trousers completely coming apart as walked into interview in seconds, what no trousers, don’t ask more please
I receive so many emails however I did really feel the need to respond to your email. Well here I go. Ill try to keep it Simple and amusing? I met with a Business Partner last year to discuss a possible opportunity. We met and the meeting went very well. I was asked by the same lady to meet with a Manager under her remit at another site. (I am sure you will appreciate how driving and Interviewing can be a stressful situation.) I made my way to The meeting place, I arrived at a car park and spotted there were several zones within a large Car Park, I parked up and purchased my ticket for 2 hours max. I thought this would be long enough! I headed towards the building and met with a security guard. I explained the reason for my visit. The guard then turned around and shouted across to the guy I was meeting. Let’s call the Manager ‘ Fred’ who was talking towards the building whilst smoking a cigarette. He turned around and came towards me. My first Impression was not good at all. Myself and Fred entered the building which was a Magistrates court, we sat in a room which belonged to the Facilities Company. The Manager then went onto to talk about himself in great detail and how positive he was? I was not asked if I would like a drink of water or how my journey was. I attempted on several occasions to gain more knowledge about the remit.. Fred also kept looking at his phone while he was talking.. I knew my phone was set with a reminder for parking.. I could not wait to get out of there. That was the worst ‘ interview’ meeting I have experienced. It was appalling! He certainly put me off..
I recently heard from a colleague who was interviewing a candidate who stopped the interview half way through a sentence, to read and reply to a text message!
He didn’t get the job.
Thank you for sending me the email below not surprise for me.
I went to interview in past where interviewer taking personal call during interview.
Interviewer late for appointment without any communication.
Sometime this is a case where candidate know more than interviewer.
Recently I went for interview and Interviewer asked me if I forget to ask me any question.
I’ve reminded him more than four questions he totally forgets.
Not so much a horror story, but an unfathomable question asked at a first interview by two HR people for a HoF role with a software company in Heathrow:
‘The restaurant is full of French people, who really love their food. A fight breaks out between two people serving. Would you close the restaurant?’
A question that raises more questions than answers, I fear.
I did recently have an interview with a service provider who was a French man with a very strong accent. We were discussing HR policy and how to ensure you were recruiting effectively and he went on to ask what was my experience of illegal immigrants, I thought he was alluding to ‘right to work’, began my response and then realised he’d actually asked me about legal agreements! I apologised and he suggested very kindly that it was his French accent causing confusion!
I do have one some years back now. The interview was held down in St James for an FM Role. What I didn’t realise until the interview started that I had looked at and read up on the wrong JD and Spec. Which was for another role I had an interview for a few hours later. I tried to wing it but failed miserably and came out of their totally embarrassed. On the bright side I did manage to secure the role at the second interview hours later.
Thank you and glad to say no real horror stories – only at one interview in the City the chap interviewing me was rather hung up on asking me about favourite colours and who is my hero – interview technique at the time and hopefully disappeared for the better. I did not get the job but did go on to work for King Sturge.
I read the stories from LinkedIn (very funny).
I have one from a couple of months back :
I was interviewing for a Facilities Manager role for an arts/culture organisation in central London. As usual, I arrived 15 minutes early and was lead down to the basement (where all Facilities departments seem to lurk!) where I met the Facilities Director who was holding the interview. Then began the most painful 30-35 minutes of my interviewing life – which consisted of the interviewer (repeatedly) asking me to talk her through my CV to which she (repeatedly) told me that she didn’t give a sh** about my BIFM courses, NEBOSH course or my experience as an FM and that they was all “pointless” and “irrelevant”. She managed to deliver the put downs over the constant yapping of her chihuahua barking at me (yes … a chihuahua dog!).
Only in the Arts …
I was asked back for a 2nd interview … I declined …
Hi, I have never had a bad interview where I was the candidate. I did when I recruited for the RAF. We were interviewing a young man, nervous especially as he was straight from school and we asked him “What was the most challenging situation you had to deal with?” He answered. The final question which we use to let them leave on a high was then put to him “Let’s turn that around, what has been your proudest achievement?” He subsequently stood up looked at the wall and gave his answer. We maintained composure, listened asked him to sit down and concluded the meeting and he was successful – needless to say we reworded the question for all other candidates
Sadly I have no horror stories about interview stories, the only one that I may have is that I went for a interview in London, travelled down from Edinburgh only to be told that there was a mistake and I should have not been on the interview list, as you can imagine I was far from happy, but London is one of my favourite cities.
I was staying at my brothers house in London while I had an interview, for the 1st interview I borrowed one of his suits, a grey checked one, he was a rockabilly so quite loud, then for the 2nd interview, which was very quickly after the 1st, he lent me a brown and yellow suit, the interview was at an investment bank. So I finished work, went and got changed and left to go to the interview, on the way everyone without fail was turning and looking, well staring at me, so panicking that I looked horrendous decided to find a basement staircase and change back into my other clothes that were completely creased and very scruffy, incidentally I didn’t get the job!!
I was attending an interview arranged by an agency, the office address was within Heathrow Airport, and I printed out the map the night before (I didn’t have satnav) – interview ay 10:00am.
On arrival at the designated building within Heathrow – I was about 45 minutes early because Heathrow traffic is unpredictable, there was no sign of the contractor’s office. I rang the agency who said that they had been contacted that morning with a revised location, and that they had emailed me (After I had left home).
I checked the address in the A-Z and set of round to the other side of the airport, could find the road outside of the airport perimeter fence, but not the building. after about 90 minutes when I was about to give up and go home, and having been frequently on the phone to the agency, I managed to get further detailed instructions. It appeared that the road has been bisected by the airport perimeter fence many years ago, and I should be looking inside the fence.
So instead of being 45 minutes early, I ended up 1 hour late. I was allowed the interview, and was made a verbal offer, but another employer jumped in first with a written offer, and the rest is history.
I hope you enjoyed these stories and they have brought a lighter side to what sometimes can be an unfortunate situation.
Oh and I am delighted to say that the Maxwell Stephens candidate did get a second interview, so he shouldn’t be too embarrassed!
Peter is the Managing Director of Maxwell Stephens