We see our share of terrible interviews and have often joked that we could write a book on what not to do in an interview. It would be a long book. The truth is, about 70% of the candidates we interview for jobs do not make it past the first-round interview. Their faux pas span everything from terrible answers to late arrivals, poor preparation, and a lack of manners. Many of these incidents are truly unique and continually make us say, “And I thought I’d seen it all.” While we often boldly offer advice when a candidate does not interview well, sometimes that advice is well received and sometimes it isn’t. We all have a worst interview story. Here are a few of our best terrible interview stories:
1. We once had someone show up to an interview wearing a bathing suit. Yes, that’s right—a bathing suit. There was a cover-up over it, but the bathing suit was visible. When asked about her choice of attire, she said she’d been asked to interview a day earlier than planned and didn’t have time to go home to change. At no point did she mention that an earlier appointment would give us such a full picture of her…
2. One of our CEO’s favorite interviews was a candidate for a fairly high level managerial role, who started the interview by telling us that she was suing her former employer. Her rant about her former job lasted several minutes as we stared wide-eyed before showing her the door.
3. My personal favorite was an interview with a man who was chewing gum and snapping it during the interview. I told him it was distracting and asked if he’d mind disposing of it. He agreed, but not before telling me that it was the only thing he could do besides smoking that would calm his interview jitters. He asked if he could take a quick smoke break instead.
4. We were on a final round interview with a man who was about to be sent to a client. His resume was great, he’d been professional and easy to work with, and his last step was to complete a pre-recorded video interview. We left him in good spirits in our conference room, poised to record. About 20 minutes later we heard a loud noise and walked out to find him sulking and very unhappy over what he recorded. He began yelling and cursing when we asked what had happened, and clearly didn’t “make the cut.”
As you can see, we’ve had our share of dramatic interviews. There are also relatively common scenarios where candidates show up late and still expect to be considered, or forget that certain lifestyle choices like facial piercings and gauges are not going to be a culture fit with a lot of employers. We’re continually amazed by some of the stories, responses, and even excuses that we hear from candidates who look “good on paper” or pass initial screens. Hiring is hard, but it’s definitely not boring!