Weird and Strange Job Interviews

A scary-looking character from "Rocky Horror Picture Show" holding a handbill which reads "Job Interview Here."Have you ever been on a job interview which was, well… just plain weird?  Perhaps the interviewer asked you some very unusual or even inappropriate questions.  Or, if you are a manager or business owner who conducts job interviews, have you ever had a situation where the applicant behaved strangely or gave very bizarre answers to your questions?

Because planning, changing, or advancing your career is a serious matter, Career Lantern articles are usually written about serious topics, and rightly so.  Today, however, we’ll take a short break from all that seriousness and look at the interview process from a different, perhaps lighter vantage point.

I recently received some interesting first-hand stories on the topic of weird and strange job interviews from around the country, and the contributors kindly allowed me to share their experiences with Career Lantern readers.  Some of the anecdotes are taken from interviews they conducted, and others are from times when they themselves were job candidates.

Depending on how you look at them, these recollections can be viewed as either hilarious or horrible; however, regardless of how you classify them, they are definitely testaments to the level of interviewing skills which can sometimes exist on either side of the table. Hopefully, you will find a take-away or two in these tales which may help on your next interview, regardless of whether you are the interviewer or interviewee. Let’s hope you never encounter experiences like these!

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 “A job candidate arrived and asked if was alright to bring a spouse into the interview.  The other interviewer and I were completely caught off guard by the unconventional request, but figured ‘what the heck’ and said that would be fine.  It might have been fine except the spouse then proceeded to do all the talking and tried to answer the questions on behalf of the candidate!  We halted the interview and asked the spouse to leave and go to the waiting area.  After the spouse left the room, the applicant sheepishly acknowledged having exaggerated on the resume and not really being qualified for the job.”

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“The interviewer asked if I was married!”

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“I was once waiting for my order at a take-out restaurant and spotted a pad of blank job application forms sitting on the counter.  Skimming through the questions, I was shocked to see one which read:

Do you have children?  □ Yes  □ No
If Yes, will they be a problem to you working as scheduled?  Explain: ______________________________.”

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 “An applicant for a word processing clerical position claimed to be very experienced with computers during the interview.  When it came time to perform a hands-on competency test involving some Word documents, the applicant said there was something wrong with the computer being used because it ‘jammed up’ and wouldn’t read the flash drive (thumb drive) containing the test material.  The computer jammed up because the applicant was trying to read the flash drive by laying it in the CD drive drawer, and of course, the drawer wouldn’t then close!”

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 “After an online video job interview was concluded, the candidate thought everyone on the panel had logged off.  However, near the end of the interview, one of our company interviewer panel members had suddenly become busy, turned off the webcam and microphone, and was actually still connected, although unintentionally.  Upon turning back to view the computer monitor, the interviewer witnessed a person who had been off-camera suddenly appear, and based on the discussion that ensued between this previously unseen person and the job applicant, it became apparent this individual had been covertly ‘feeding’ the applicant answers throughout the entire job interview!”

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“I went to an interview for receptionist position at a chiropractor’s office.  At first, the owner asked about the usual clerical skills I might have, and then went on to ask if I had been in the Girl Scouts (selling cookies) and whether I could usually get people to do what I wanted.  This started to get really weird, especially considering the type of office it was, so I asked for more detail about the position to find out what was really going on.  It turns out, that in addition to being a receptionist for the office, my job would be to assist the owner with a side business, one which involved trying to sell people memberships in some sort of obvious pyramid scheme!  Before I could say anything further, the owner handed me a personality test, which looked like it was photocopied from an old 1960s magazine, and asked me to fill it out.  I made an excuse and just quickly got the heck out of there.  The owner looked incredibly ticked off that I was not interested in the position!”

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 “Our panel was conducting a job interview with a candidate by telephone.  We normally ask about 10 to 12 questions and limit the interview to a maximum of 45 minutes in length.  Question one, which was something like ‘Please describe why you feel that you have the skills to perform the duties of this position’ was asked and the candidate began to describe typical background information such as education and experience.  Soon, the candidate began to ramble a bit, but was still largely focused on the position. The candidate then started to address the subject matter of questions two and three (which we had not yet asked), so the lead of the interview team just allowed the applicant to continue uninterrupted.  That move proved to be a huge mistake as the candidate suddenly went completely off topic, using up nearly 20 minutes of the allotted interview time, and then went into a prolonged rant about the unfairness of income taxes.  By that point, the available interview time was used up and we ending up cutting off the candidate in order to ask a couple of brief corporate HR-mandated questions, but we failed to get to the balance of the interview questions answered.  Admittedly, this is an example of a big fail by both parties: us members of the interview team for not cutting off the candidate early in the rant, and the candidate for going on an off-topic rant instead of giving concise and succinct answers to what was being asked.”

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 “We interviewed a candidate who looked great on paper and whose resume mentioned also owning a small business.  During the interview, we asked whether the applicant was still actively involved with the side business.  The candidate replied ‘no’ and went on to explain, in very elaborate detail, how ownership of the business was cleverly transferred to a friend so that a ‘crazy ex’ couldn’t get any more child support money.  The candidate bragged about how slick this move was, and that this was really going to teach that ‘crazy ex’ a lesson.  The applicant also continued to spew more unwanted and irrelevant details about their terrible fights. Needless to say, we were totally not impressed by this candidate’s trustworthiness or communication skills.  During a job interview, keep your personal stuff to yourself!”

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 “A candidate who had previously worked in state government was being interviewed at our company for an entry-level position which required basic computer skills and the ability to analyze large sets of data.  After the basic, normal questions were answered, the applicant asked a few questions about the position, and we explained that some spreadsheet and other programming skills might be helpful.  The candidate then began to expound on having accomplishing some huge programming feats which seemed quite unrealistic for this individual.  Going even further, the candidate took full personal credit for the creation of software programs being used by an entire state government, and how this was all achieved just using Excel, with the work resulting in major policy changes and the savings of millions of dollars.  Afterwards, the interview team was painfully skeptical that one person, at the position level held, with the background described, could have individually and so significantly impacted statewide government programs and influenced major policies changes.  We all felt that we needed to take showers because so much ‘bs’ had been thrown at us during that interview by a person who was only minimally qualified for an entry-level position.  Everyone agreed that both the resume and candidate were not to be trusted.”

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 “Very early in my career, I had the opportunity to interview for a position with a well-known, Fortune 50 corporation.  I was interviewed separately by a few different individuals, and everything went well I thought.  The final individual I met with was very positive and upbeat, and started talking as if the job was definitely going to be offered to me, but indicated that a superior had to be consulted first for approval, and left the room.  Returning after quite an extended length of time, the interviewer was visibly upset and absolutely furious about something, and began pacing back and forth, fists clenched.  I asked if something was wrong, and the interviewer said bluntly, ‘Let’s put it this way, if you were a different color, you’d have the job right now.’  I was stunned!”

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 “I once interviewed an external candidate for an entry-level opening who exhibited a very arrogant attitude and did not at all have impressive credentials or experience, and yet behaved as though entitled to the position.  When we reached the end of the interview, I asked if the applicant had any questions for me.  The candidate said, ‘Yes, just one.  I REALLY like my vacation time.  When would be the absolute soonest I could take a two-week, paid vacation?’  I don’t know if the individual ever got a two-week, paid vacation, but if so, it wasn’t with our company!”

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“I was the manager of a hamburger chain restaurant and during an interview asked why the job applicant wanted to work here.  In a super creepy way, the candidate admitting just absolutely loving hamburgers and thinking about them all the time.  Other than that one weird statement the rest of the interview went really great, so I took a chance and hired the hamburger-obsessed person anyway.  The individual turned out to be a really good employee!” 

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“At the end of two different job interviews the candidates each said, ‘I really have no interest in this job and wouldn’t accept it if you offered it to me.  Could you please just sign my form from the unemployment office so I can show them I had an interview this week?’  What a waste of time!”

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“As the manager of a fast-food restaurant, many of my applicants are teenagers.  Several times, I have had the parents of the candidate show up and want to sit in on the job interviews.  Unfortunately, when I have allowed it, the parents often try to answer the questions instead of the teens!  One applicant was age 18 and perfectly capable of doing interview, but the parent informed me they wanted to sit in and help because the kid had already been on numerous interviews and still hadn’t found a job. They didn’t find one this time either.”

 

Featured image courtesy of Adam Rhoades – flickr
(NOTE: Handbill was added to the original image.)

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