The Worst Job Interview Horror Stories

The Worst Job Interview Horror Stories
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Nothing kills the excitement of a possible new job like a terrible interview. Last week we asked you what your worst job interviews were like, and you delivered. Here are the most nightmarish experiences, as told by you.

Picture: Aleutie (Shutterstock) and Nemo

The one with the really nice guy, from Matt Carter:

Interview at a medium sized company, guy tells me at the end of a 2-hour long interview “Well, you’re a good candidate, but we’ve already made a decision to go with someone else.” K, great, thanks for wasting my time. He said he already had the interview on his schedule, and didn’t want to be rude. Swell. Fast forward 3 weeks later, I am working in a different (much better) job, get a call from the guy offering me the job. I said, “You told me that you were going with someone else.” He says “N-n-n-no I didn’t!” Click.

The one with the buggy production code, from JustDoIt:

Had an interview for a coding position. They handed me a chunk of code and asked me to interpret what it does. They gave me a pad of paper, said they’d give me 20 minutes, and on the way out said, “oh there may be a bug in there.”

So I worked through the code in my head (it was a statistical analysis program), and after a while I found a flaw if numbers had too many decimal places. When they came back, they asked for the pad back. I had 3 lines of numbers written on it. I then commenced to explain to them what the program was. They wanted to see my work, but agreed what I calculated was correct. I told them I ran the numbers in my head. Then I explained the error I saw in the decimal precision, which were the 3 lines on the pad. They became very annoyed, and told me that this was actual production code they use, and there were no bugs. They said I wasn’t going to be a fit.

I got a call two weeks later, apologising, and explaining I was right about the bug. Their own QA folks never caught it. They asked if I would come back to interview, but I already had an offer in hand for another job.

The one with no repeats, from rw:

I had a third round interview. The interviewer said “I have the transcript from the last interview, I know you had to provide unique answers to the questions, I am going ask the same questions again and you have to give new unique answers”.

I gave it a shot but he kept telling me I was giving the same answers. Eventually I said “let’s not waste any more time here, thanks for the opportunity”, shook his hand and left.

HR called me a few hours later freaking out — no one has ever walked out before. I explained the situation and said I did not want to work for a company that had people like my interviewer (he was a real d*%$). The interview worked in a way as I was not what they were looking for.

The one with the karma, from psychodog:

I’m interviewing for a position with a successful family business… About 30 minutes into the interview (interviewing with the dad and son, CEO and President, respectively). Dad says, “where do you go to church?” I dodge the question with a “not sure what that has to do with the job responsibilities”.

A few minutes later, Dad asks, “how many times have you been married?” Again, divert the question and wait for the next one. Son’s phone rings, gets up to take the call and Dad makes small talk for a minute. Son comes back and says the interview is over. Tells me they couldn’t have someone who’d been divorced working for them (seems they had someone run a public records search during the interview).

I tell them that’s not a valid criterion and their questions were illegal. Son says they don’t care it’s their business and they run it the way they want. I did celebrate a little when, a few months later, it was revealed that their “good, Christian” Controller had embezzled $2.1 million!

The one with the confusing homonym, from Nick Foote:

I pulled an amazingly cringe-worthy move in one of my first interviews. I can’t believe how stupid I was. The interviewer got to the question of: “Do you have any convictions?”

I sit there and ponder for a quite a few seconds, and then I say “Well, no, not really.”

The interviewer just stares are me with his mouth slightly agape. I thought he means convictions as in “firmly held beliefs” as opposed to “convicted of a crime” which is a standard interview question. Not only was he surprised that it was taking me that long to think of the answer to a yes or no question, but then to have me give an wishy-washy answer. We laughed about it, awkwardly, and then I didn’t get the job.

The one with the bondage, from tricache:

I went in for a basic web dev/data entry type job which was for a local government member’s office and ended up being asked if I would be interested in doing a S&M/bondage website….I left pretty quickly!

The one where you can’t live in Burbville, from kcunning:

It had been a great interview. People loved me, especially the woman who would be my boss. “You’re like me, ten years ago, which is EXACTLY what I asked my boss for!” I was super excited, because the job would mean more money, more upwards mobility, and doing something I enjoyed.

Then, things got weird.

My boss asked where I lived, and I told him. It was about an hour away, but in our area (let’s call it Burbville), it wasn’t unheard of to have people commute over an hour to work. That’s just how it goes in our region. He appeared to mull it over.

“So, you’re planning to move closer?”

“Um… unless I read the potential salary wrong, no. This is a crazy expensive area, and rent and cost of living are much cheaper out where I am.”

“Yeah, but… you’re living in Burbville. It’s not very… nice.”

Note here: Our city is often maligned for being a ‘ghetto’ or a ‘hood’, mostly because it’s the last affordable city in this area, and because it’s not 90% white.

“…Our crime rate is one of the lowest in the region, we’re right off of the two major highways in the area, and our schools are excellent. It’s not fancy, but it works for me.”

“Still, you’re planning on moving out here, right? What about the commute?”

“I’ve commuted further for less, and the commute is my problem, not yours.”

He paused, and I thought he was going to let it drop. Then he looked at my hand.

“You’re married. Doesn’t your husband make enough for you to live out here?”

*gritting my teeth* “His salary isn’t your problem either.”

A week later, I got the call that they went with another candidate who lived closer. The woman who would have been my boss was pissed, because the other candidate was vastly less qualified.

While I’ve had worse interviews (one left me in tears afterwards), that one was a cold bucket of reality water where I realised how shitty the world could really be.

The one with the wrong research, from xyranius:

Out of uni, I was applying to some mining companies up in Queensland, and had several interviews coming up.

So I went into the first interview having thoroughly researched Rio Tinto, and why I wished to work with them. The first question of the interview comes up: “So what do you know about XStrata?”

… Oops. Turns out the Rio interview was the one 3 days later.

The one with the internet sensation of 2013, from RightOnTopOfThatRose:

I was flown to Florida for a 2-day job interview. About an hour after I arrive on the first day, I was taken to an all-staff meeting for an “exciting” announcement. Surprise! The marketing department has decided to make a Harlem Shake video!!! Everyone was required to participate…

The one with the fire drill, from oly0015:

Fire alarm goes off. Guy runs off for 10 minutes and comes back, says it’s a fire drill and to continue while its wailing. Come to find out at the end of the interview the building is on fire…

The one with the third wheel, from raising hellions:

Got to an interview early. While waiting in the reception area, I saw a restroom out in the lobby, so I decided to go and check my makeup. I’m in there, got my makeup all spread out on the counter, and a woman in a suit comes in. We give each other the tight little smile of acknowledgement that you do when you meet a stranger in a public bathroom. She went into the stall and I went back to my makeup.

The next thing I hear is the sound of that poor woman exploding arse. Never heard anything like it before or since. I start frantically grabbing all my makeup and brushes and stuffing them back into my makeup case so I could get out of there and let the woman continue to explode in peace, but then the smell hit. It was so bad, I honestly thought I might puke, so I grabbed my stuff and ran, leaving a trail of dropped lipsticks and eyeliner.

Guess who was my interviewer? Both of us almost died when I was shown into the room. It was the most awkward interview ever. She was red to the roots of her hair the whole time and could barely even speak out of embarrassment, but she had a colleague in the room with her so there was no way to make light of it and try to clear the air (har har). At one point the colleague had to take over because she just. couldn’t. even. He was mystified and I wanted to find the nearest hole and crawl into it. I have no idea if the answers I was giving made any sense at all. It was just so cringeworthy.

Here’s hoping your next interview isn’t anything like these!


  • I have had something like “The one where you can’t live in Burbville, from kcunning:” It was for an accounts payable position in which despite having an Advanced Diploma in Marketing and previous experience in Higher Education, State Government/Public Sector and Healthcare in the same field they wanted me to do a Year 9 English and Mathematics exam prior to the actual verbal interview (first time I experienced this).

    Everything was fine except the HR Manager made a sarcastic comment about my suburb I live in (as in you are from the north aren’t you), I said that shouldn’t matter as travel to here is less than 30 minutes by transport.

    He then said our payment policy is that the CEO is the only person who authorises payments and only does so when he wants to and if you need an urgent payment and try chasing down the payment when he doesn’t want to be disturbed you would be fired on the spot, what do you do?

    First of all that would be illegal as it is my job to ensure payments are made to our debtors, however I couldn’t think of the alternatives as my background has had policies in place with alternative signatories.

    At the end of the day I didn’t get the position, however with the way I felt belittled by HR Management during the interview.

  • First job, get a call – group interview tomorrow, hope you can make it. Bit short notice.

    Second job, did an initial interview, go home, open the mail and find a rejection email. WTF? Ignore as I’d just had an interview and the letter was obviously sent before that. Had a second interview and initially got the job. Turns out they had lost my details or something at some point so just sent a rejection letter to cover themselves.

    Current job, they emailed me several times about an interview but were sending it to the wrong email address (I had provided the correct one, they misread it). Guy with wrong email eventually replies saying “I don’t know what you are on about”. They finally decide to call me and we work out a different interview date and I get the job.

  • I once had an interview that went extremely well, so well that they introduced me to everyone, showed me where I’d be sitting, and basically started training me before leaving. Then at the end when they were telling me I’d pretty much got the job and it was just formalities from then on the topic turned to a sport I didn’t follow.

    I didn’t get the job, they went with someone who was a better team fit (followed that sport I’m guessing).

  • A few years back I got 2 job offers at the same time. One offered $18k more. So I call the agent for the cheaper job to tell her the situation. She come’s back with a counter offer which is still $8k less than the higher paying job. So I politely decline. It’s at this point she loses her marbles and proceeds to tell me how rude I am and that I’d never get a job through their agency again.

    • Haha man, recruiters make me laugh. Pretty much 90% of the ones I have dealt with are so close to being clinically retarded.

    • I had one where the recruiter misunderstood the offer from the employer and offered me the max they offered after five years as a contractor. This was pretty much my minimum I would accept anyway. When they caught up with it and gave me notice of lowering the rate I wasn’t exactly keen on working for 8k less and one of the worst wages I’d ever been on, so figured full time job hunting was a better use of my time than hanging around.

  • Only a small thing, but I was working as a temp for a major company, and they decided they wanted to make my position permanent. For various reasons, they had to go through the motions instead of just offering me the job, so I had to apply and interview (against about 90 other candidates…I felt bad for the ones who got interviews, since my boss was very clear that they would have just hired me if they could, and he was going to make sure I got the job – I did).

    All went very well, since I knew the job backwards, I interviewed with the next level up boss and a guy from HR – who spent the whole interview coughing into his hand. His right hand. Which, at the end of the interview, he then offered to me.

    I politely shook it, and immediately ducked into the toilets to wash my hands once I got out of his sight.

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