interview horror stories

Why a Man was Running while I Phone-Interviewed Him... And 3 More Bizarre Interview Stories

bizarre interview stories

You all seemed to really enjoy the first time I did this, with my blog post: Why a Many Once Fell Asleep While Interviewing... And 3 other Outlandish Interview Experience, so here I am sharing four more bizarre interview experiences with you. 

As you're reading these, just remember the moral of the story. I survived, they survived, and no matter how ridiculous or uncomfortable an interview gets, everything's going to be alright. 

*Once again, to make this educational and not simply embarrassing, I’m going to formulate the stories as I recommend you formulate your interview answers, using the CAR method; context, action, result.

1. CNN MARATHON

Context: So you may remember from the previous installment, that two of my stories took place during an interview day at a university in North Miami. If you didn't read the last blog, that was the day where they all watched me peal a grapefruit with my bare hands, and also the day of the infamous, interview-panelist-falls-asleep mid-interview situation. 

Guess what... there's more stories from that day. Including this gem. 

Action: I arrived 15 minutes early for my interview (standard practice) and was instructed to have a seat on the couch in the lobby while they prepared for me. The lobby had a TV playing CNN (what is this, a dentist's office?) and I waited there for about 30 minutes, watching it until someone came and got me. After the first interview, they told me to wait on the couch until a tour guide arrived to show me around campus... which happened 45 minutes later. CNN count is now up to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Result: I won't regale you with each account, but throughout the day, this happened several more times and within a total of 6 hours and 15 minutes on campus, I spent over 2 hours and 15 minutes sitting on that couch, watching CNN. 

The next day, they offered me the job. I graciously declined. 

 

2. WTH ARE GRITS?

Context: I flew to Ashville, North Carolina for a 2.5 day interview gauntlet with a lovely liberal arts university in the Appalachian Mountains. On the first night I was there, I was taken out to dinner by some very nice university staff to a local restaurant. 

Action: We were all chatting and getting to know each other at the restaurant. It was nice. I think they liked me. At some point, I asked what they all liked at this restaurant and they started raving about the grits. Now, I'm not your average Canadian boy, I know a thing or two about "the South", but I had no idea what the hell grits were. However, wanting to show my willingness to trust in others, I ordered my meal with a side of "the grits".

Result: I quickly found out that grits are basically soggy corn mush. Imagine oatmeal (which I hate) but corn. It looked like grey sludge in a bowl. It tasted like oatmeal (again... gross), but damn it, if I didn't *grit/8 my teeth and slurp down the whole bowl. They were impressed, but in the end, I lost out on that job due to visa complications. 

 

3. A BULL IN A CHINA SHOP

Context: I'm so sorry to do this... I'm sorry... We're going back to MIAMI!!! Same freakin' day as the CNN marathon, as the breakfast-for-one debacle, and of course, the man-falling-asleep-in-my-interview day. 

This time, it's the end of the interview day and I'm meeting with my would-be supervisor to have the standard heart-to-heart, where they tell you all about their management style, the office culture, and basically give you a final pitch as to why you should work with them. 

Action: The director I'm meeting with is a bit of a mess. He's a big reason that many of the events from earlier in the day have happened. He mentioned 3 times that he enjoys drinking at his students' events and now he's describing his management style. I'm going to "transcribe" what he said as best as I can remember (which is fairly well because I've told this story so many times). 

"My management style... well, I'm like a bull in a china shop. I'll walk down the hall on a rampage. I'll poke my head in your door, tell you everything you're doing wrong and then just leave before you have a chance to react. 

"If we're in a meeting, and you screwed up, I'll call you out in front of everyone. I won't mention you by name, but I'll describe everything you did and you'll know I'm talking about you. Later, you'll come to me a say, 'that stuff in the meeting was about me, right?' and I'll be like, 'you know it!'"

Result: The crazy part about this rant was that he really seemed to think these were major selling points and that people would be excited to work in this kind of environment. Here's the thing though... I was not. 

 

4. READY, SET, GO!

Context: I don't normally like to poke fun in situations in which I am the interviewer, mostly because when you're in a position of authority, it just doesn't feel right. This one; for some reason, feels okay. 

I was fulfilling my phone screening responsibilities as a member of the graduate assistant recruitment committee during grad school and I was about two dozen phone interviews deep when this lovely situation occurred. 

Action: I was speaking to a young man about his undergraduate experience when I noticed him breathing irregularly. I assumed this was just nerves (totally natural) and didn't acknowledge it. Then, the breathing got heavier and his answers started getting shorter and less coherent... then the phone cut out. 

Result: The guy called me back and I had to ask him what was going on. He apolgized and told me that he lost me when he ran through a building that had bad reception. I asked what he meant by running and he told me he had been running around his campus trying to find a quiet place to do the interview. 

This man did not advance past the phone screen phase. Find a quiet place to do your phone interviews before they begin, people!

Do you have any bizarre interview stories? 
Share in the comments!

Why a Man Once Fell Asleep while Interviewing Me… and 3 Other Outlandish Interview Experiences

Interview gone wrong

I know this headline sounds bad. I promise, I did not bore anyone to sleep. However, in light of the upcoming April Fool’s Day (which is my Birthday, FYI), I thought it might be fun to revisit some of my most awkward and outlandish interview experiences.

My hope in writing this is that you will realize that interviews can be unpredictable and weird. And that no matter what happens, you will get through it.

To make sure this educational, as well as entertaining, I’m going to formulate the stories as I recommend you formulate your interview answers, using the CAR method; context, action, result.

1. A Fly on the Wall

Context: I was interviewing for a graduate assistant position in a university’s civic engagement office and I was being interviewed by two young men immediately after eating a big lunch.

Action: About 15 minutes into the interview, one of my interviewer’s attention was drawn away from me by a fly buzzing harmlessly around the corner of the room. He watched the fly intently for several minutes, seeming to entirely forget I was there.

After a couple minutes watching the fly, he stood up and started following it around the room. At this point I stopped talking and just watched. Then, in a flash, the man picked up a file folder and swatted the fly to death. He then apologized and we resumed the interview.

Result: I took a graduate assistantship in a different office at that same university, and the fly swatter later became my gym buddy. He never swatted me once.

2. Breakfast Anyone?

Context: I was interviewing for a full-time position as Student Activities Coordinator at a small university in Miami. I had a full day of interviews on their campus, starting with a group breakfast. Normally, these breakfasts are light-hearted conversations over a shared meal to warm everyone up before the interview; however…

Action: The “breakfast” they presented was a cafeteria tray of cold hash browns, bacon and some fruit, assumedly leftover from breakfast served to students, hours earlier. I filled my plate with as little as I could without being rude. Then, as I sat down with my interviewers, I realized that I was the only one with any food. They had “already ate”.

So as they sat watching me struggle to peel a grapefruit with my bare hands, the interviewers pulled out notepads and started asking me full-on interview questions! I understand that multitasking is important; however, but I had never felt so awkward in my life.

Result: They must have admired my grit for dealing with the situation, because they did offer me the job. However, due to the breakfast incident, along with item number four on this list, I had to decline the offer.

3. With Arms Wide Open

Context: I was at an interview conference in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, interviewing with 10 different universities, looking for potential graduate assistantships. My second interview was with two lovely people from the Residence Life office at the University of Kansas.

Action: One of the interviewers was sitting with her legs crossed throughout the interview. Little did she know, by the end of the interview, one of those legs had fallen asleep. The interview was in a small room with no desk between the interviewers and myself, so as this women stood to shake my hand, she immediately toppled forward into my outstretched arms. Luckily, I was able to catch her and no one was injured in the process.

Result: My act of heroism was not enough to overcome my lack of Residence Life experience, and I did not advance with the University of Kansas.

4. Wakey, Wakey!

Context: We’re back in Miami. Only an hour or so after the breakfast incident. I’m sitting down to interview with a panel of 10 of my "would-be" peers. I know what you’re thinking, “10 people is too many for an interview panel,” apparently one man on the panel agreed…

Action: I swear the other 9 people on the panel were deeply enthralled with my interview. But one guy just wasn’t feeling it.

He was wearing jeans and a hoodie… and he was wearing the hood… over his head. He was sitting less than 5 feet away from me. He wasn’t at the other side of the room, he was more-or-less right next to me. And about 20 minutes in, I just notice his head start nodding, and his eyes start drooping.

I kept it as professional as possible, answering questions, and smiling, but I couldn’t stop watching as this guy peacefully drifted into dreamland before my eyes. He would occasionally wake up and start smiling and nodding as if I couldn’t see his chin repeatedly fall down to his chest and his eyes fall shut.

Result: I got through the interview, thrilled to have this story to tell, and as I mentioned in story two, I did not accept when they offered me the job.

 

I have lots more of these ridiculous interview stories, including a time a guy was running during a phone interview, and a potential supervisor who bragged about his “bull-in-a-china-shop” management style. I will save those, for another time. 

Good luck with your interviews out there people!

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