Interviewers Behaving Badly – World’s 8 Worst Job Interviewers

Worst Job InterviewersLast month, we took a look at some of the weirdest things job candidates have said and done in interviews, as reported by readers. But turnabout is fair play, so this month we’re looking at odd behavior on the interviewer’s side of the desk. Here are our eight favorite stories from readers about interviewers behaving badly.

1. It’s not a real fire

“I was in an interview once and in the middle of speaking, the lead person on the interview panel suddenly yelled ‘FIRE!’ and the entire panel got up and started running around the room like crazy people. I promptly got my phone out and dialed 911.

They stopped dead in their tracks when I was on the phone to 911 and got upset because it wasn’t a real fire. They were just trying to see what my reaction was to emergency situations (which was not part of the job by any stretch of the imagination), and their policy was to get people out of the building first. I explained they did a really poor job of following their own policy and that they could explain to law enforcement, who should be there shortly, why they decided to do what they did. Then I left.”

2. HR gone horribly awry

“Here are a few choice quotes from my interview with the HR director for a company:

‘Our workforce is mainly male, which I like, because women take more leave and use more FMLA to care for children. Women are the caretakers and they should be.’

‘I want this position to be female though, because I have to talk to women and I’m not a woman. Also minorities.’

‘A French company owns us, but they let us do our own thing. We don’t have many French in this location. Our CFO is here and he’s a French, but he’s okay.’

I can’t help but wonder if this was all a test to see what I’d do, though, because I never heard anything back from them. Maybe they wanted me to point out how awful he sounded?”

3. Asked to reprimand the interview team

“I had a nightmare interview experience with Fancy Consulting Firm, Inc. First, they flew me across the country for an 8-hour day of interviews. Six of the eight hours of interviews were on Skype with a team in a different city, much closer to my home.

Second, I showed up in a suit (of course – it’s an interview at Fancy Consulting Firm). Everyone in the office was wearing jeans. They teased me for wearing a suit. When the interviewer asked me about my impressions of their office culture (remember, he was on Skype), I mentioned that they were ‘more casual than I expected.’ He became very upset and said, ‘They’re not supposed to be wearing jeans in the office!’ and asked me to call the office manager in to reprimand everyone.

Third, there was an earthquake in the middle of the interview, and everyone in the office ran up and down the halls screaming.

I do not currently work for Fancy Consulting Firm, Inc. I was never so happy to get out of an interview in my life.”

4. Stranded in a strange city

“In grad school, a certain state university invited me for an interview. I confirmed the date with the professor inviting me, and I was told that since it was a long trip (about six hours of driving), I could just drop by the secretary’s desk and she would hunt him down, and then he would show me my hotel room, etc.

When I got there, the professor was away at a conference, the secretary had no idea I was coming, and I had no place to stay.”

5. Topless interviewing

For a position in a private school that served toddlers through sixth grade, I was interviewed by two people, one of whom had her toddler with her, just playing quietly in the background. About halfway through, the toddler wandered over, and the interviewer whipped her shirt completely off, tossing it on the floor. She wasn’t wearing a bra, so it made it that much easier for her to start breastfeeding the toddler. After she was done, she let the child toddle back to the toys and continued asking questions, topless.

We finished the interview with me trying to keep my eyes above shoulder level and I was very relieved to get a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ from them.”

6. Looking for a mover

“One interview seemed to be going very well until the last few minutes, when the hiring manager asked me what kind of car I drove. I answered honestly (‘a Honda Civic’) and she made a face. She then asked me when I would be able to start (‘2 weeks from the time of offer,’ since I was currently employed), and again she made a disappointed face.

She thanked me for my time, but said the company was moving to a new office Monday so it wasn’t going to work out. When I appeared confused, she explained that she was really looking for someone who could start on Monday (it was a Friday afternoon, and she knew I was currently employed!) and had a large vehicle so they could save money on movers and moving trucks.”

7. “You need a makeover”

“At one interview, the woman interviewing me said my ‘look was outdated,’ gave me her husband’s business card (he was a hair stylist) and suggested I contact him about getting my hair cut/styled, then went on about how handsome he is.”

8. Interviewer on the attack

“The worst interview I had was when I applied to a medical device startup for a design engineer position. Everything was great until the VP interviewed me. She:

  • Walked on her treadmill for most of it, while watching TV.
  • Answered the phone twice.
  • Saw a friend outside and went out to chat for a few minutes.
  • Asked my high school and insulted me for going to ‘that farm school.’
  • Asked if I knew her company’s process. I guessed. ‘You’re wrong, but I can’t tell you because it’s proprietary. But you should know it.’
  • Ridiculed my undergrad college: ‘I’d like you a lot more if you went to MIT like me, instead of some party school.’ (The closest things to parties my undergrad had were the art students’ galleries.)
  • Recommended I drop out of my project management program: ‘You won’t be able to use that here.’
  • Told me, ‘Go work at McDonald’s or someplace easy for a few years, then re-apply. Your work gap is inexcusable.’ Mind you, I had five years of experience in engineering, and the gap was for extensive disease-related hand surgeries. When I explained this to her, she responded, ‘Obviously nature thinks you’re weak, so why would we want you?’

At that point, I walked out, thanked the secretary at the front desk, and went home to continue the job hunt. Perhaps ironically, a few years later, I ended up being the project manager for the construction company that demolished their building.”











Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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  • Jeff Kulas

    When I was looking for a job after college many years ago, I went in to interview for a major corporation in the area and the first interviewer was a woman from the company’s human resources department. Her first question to me was, “What turns you on?” I was too shy and quiet at the time to give her the snarky answers that popped into the head of a 22 or 23 year old male (like “women in human resources”), but then stumbled out with the answer of “challenges” turning me on and gave her an example of one.

    [Reply]

    Vicki Brown Reply:

    It’s probably best that you were “too shy and quiet” at the time…

    [Reply]

  • Rachael Moore

    I wouldn’t consider working at McDonald’s to be easy. It’s a hard working minimum wage job.

    [Reply]

  • Susan Johnson

    OML! What horrible interview stories, especially the lat one. Makes me feel so much better about some of my horrible interviews. Thanks for posting these!

    [Reply]

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  • Michelle Burnett

    About ten years ago, I was working in a specialized field. I got a headhunting call from a VP of a competing company in the same field, asking me to come out to an interview in a neighboring city I would have to fly to. My husband and I got excited at the prospect of moving to a nice new city we had always thought about moving to, and I got excited about the prospect of a new job that would put me on a fast-track to moving up in my field.

    We got to the neighboring city and the person who had called me, who was a VP at the company, met us at a local restaurant for dinner and the first part of the interview. He couldn’t have been nicer. The conversation went wonderfully. He asked me to meet him at the company headquarters (it was a small company) the next morning at 10 a.m. for an interview with the company’s president and to talk about terms for starting the job.

    I got to the headquarters at 9:45. We then waited…and waited…and waited. The company president never showed up. Never called. Never tried to get in touch and say he wasn’t coming, or why. My husband and I had an 3 p.m. flight home that day so at 12:30, I finally said “sorry, I have to go” and left.

    About six months later I read in the NATIONAL news that the president of this company – Mr. No-Show – was under federal indictment for running a pyramid scheme in which he had promised investors in the company staggering returns, then took their money and used it on NFL tickets, first-class airfare, and a sports car for himself. The company went bankrupt and dissolved. I never heard what had happened to the VP – who I don’t think had any idea about the fraud – but I hope he managed to move on and find a better company to work for.

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  • kelly

    Some of my interviewers were insulting and racial. I have been told due to my race and gender I am not qualified. Also since I only speak one language,English, I am often denied employment even though I am certified in my field. I have been asked personal questions about my social and family life which should be irrelevant. I had one lady tell me to my face they do not hire “white people”. When I called corporate to report her, they simply brushed me aside with no care. Where I currently work I am the only Caucasian person.

    [Reply]

    cara Reply:

    Hey Kelly,
    I’ve had similar experiences. I once had a man lie to my face that the company wasn’t hiring ten minutes after he handed my friend an application.

    [Reply]

  • Cara

    I’ve had some terrible interviewers. More than once an have had interviewers be constantly interrupted, One literally saw me and tried to walk me right out the front door. Another stared at the wall before we even began and continued to show me a cold shoulder. The last one literally walked away after five minutes handed me an application and went on working. i had to chase him down to even give him the app back. Every interview out of the last 3 has been overly rude in some manner.

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