Interview Tips

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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Why Interviews are Like First Dates… and how to dress and act to get invited back

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Much like a first date, an interview is a feeling out process for both the sides. There may be some nervousness. There will certainly be uncertainty. How are they expecting me to act? What should I wear? How’s my breath?

The first impression counts for a lot.

Now, whether or not I'm a dating expert is still up for debate; however, if you’re going for an interview, here are a few essential pieces of etiquette you need to know if you want to get to a second round of interviews.

If you try any of these on a date, I would honestly love to hear how it goes (hit me up with details at greg@greglangstaff.com).

What should I wear? Wear a suit... for the interview, not the date (unless you feel a suit is appropriate, I don't know what you have planned). For the interview, a suit means your jacket matches your skirt or pants. Underneath said jacket, wear something professional, whether that be a dress shirt and tie or another professional-looking top. Regardless of your gender-expression, suits are your best bet for success. Also please wear dress shoes.

Unless explicitly told not to dress this way by the interviewer, this will be the expected interview attire regardless of what type of clothing is worn in the work place.

When should I get there? For both a date, and an interview, arrive 10-15 minutes early. If you're antsy and want to get there earlier, that's fine, but don't present yourself until you're in this time window. You don't want to show up too early, it can be a bit awkward for everyone if they're not ready for you.

Also, please don't show up last minute. It's a major red flag.

Be friendly with the receptionist (or parents, or roommate): Whoever is receiving you at the office's front desk (or your date's house) will likely be consulted to see how you behaved before the interview (or date) began.

Physical Contact? Shake the interviewers hand before and after the interview: No need to wait for them to initiate the handshake. They might be tired from all the interviews and might not initiate. If they have a valid reason not to shake your hand, they will politely decline and it will not be a big deal, I promise.

If on a date, remember, consent is key. Ask before you do anything. 

How do I follow up after? After an interview, write a “Thank You” email. Later that day or the next, write an email to the hiring manager (and the full committee if possible). Don't try to continue pitching yourself here. Just tell them it was really nice to meet them and thank them for taking the time to interview you.

As for following up after the date, totally up to you. Follow your heart.

I hope you enjoyed this ultra-romantic interview advice. I certainly had a good time writing it. Good luck on your next interview!

Inside the Mind of an Interviewer: How I Predict Interview Questions

Interview Questions

Hi there! Welcome to the Greg Langstaff Resume & Interview blog. I'm here to give you a quick burst of useful information so you can build a great resume and nail your interviews.


An interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. The toughest part is often the uncertainty we feel during our preparation process. What are the interviewers looking for in their ideal candidate? What do they expect of me? What will they ask?

Thankfully, it’s not all that hard to get into the interviewer’s head as we prepare for our interview. Most of the questions they will ask are sneakily hidden somewhere inside the job posting to which we applied. That's why I save those bad boys, every time.

Here are a few quick steps I follow to help forecast the interview questions (I like the term forecast better than predict because, like the weather, you won’t get it exactly right, but it will give you a good idea what to expect). These steps are quick and easy so follow them and then get started on preparing your A+ answers!

  1. Carefully read the job description and make a list of every task, responsibility, experience, or skill they mention.

    • For example, if the job posting said “Will coordinate the annual office team-building retreat” we could list Event Planning as a skill.

  2. Add any standard workplace skills or traits you think might apply to this position to our list.

    • Examples include Teamwork, Conflict Resolution, Organizational Skills.

  3. Turn each item on our list into questions which ask us for an example of a time we demonstrated that skill or experience.

    • For example, if the skill was Budget Management, we could create a question something like this: “Tell us about a time when you managed a budget effectively.”

Most interviews will include between 10 and 20 questions depending on the duration of the interview and the seniority of the position. When I do this exercise, I generally find it’s not hard to come up with at least 25 questions. The more we have, the better prepared we will be. Don’t worry about going overboard, it can only help.

For more interview tips, check out my blog on staying calm, cool, and collected during interviews: 9 Interview Tips That’ll Make You Feel Confident, Professional, and Relaxed.

Phone Interviews: Avoid these Critical Errors

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Welcome to Greg Langstaff Job Search Mini-Blogs, where I give you a quick burst of awesome advice so you can get what you need and go continue being your awesome self.

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Normally it's more productive to talk about what to do rather than what not to do, but I've conducted 100’s of phone interviews over the years and there have been some atrocious mistakes, so I'm taking a hard stance on this one.

Location

  1. Don't do the phone interview in public
  2. Don't do the phone interview while driving
  3. Don't do the phone interview in a place where you will be interrupted or external noises could be heard through the phone
  4. Don't do the phone interview in a place with questionable reception

Make sure you are in a quiet, private, secure place, preferably over a landline or in a place with reliable reception.

Behavior

  1. Don't do the phone interview lying down or slouching
  2. Don't pace back-and-forth rapidly (or at all if you can handle it)
  3. Don't be an expressionless robot who feels no joy and has a monotone voice
  4. Don't interrupt the interviewer(s)

Sit or stand in a comfortable position where you can move occasionally to stay comfortable but your posture does not impede your voice. You want your posture to inspire professional behavior.

Be sure to smile and insert some excitement into your voice. They can't see your enthusiasm, so they'll have to hear it in your voice.

Now the “Do’s”

  1. Do have your notes on the job description and your resume out for you to reference
  2. Do write yourself fun motivational notes and reminders like, “Smile!”, or “Blow their minds!”, or “Death to my enemies” to keep your spirits up during the interview

Phone interviews are a great way to make a first impression and set yourself up for a great next interview. Prepare appropriately and you'll do a great job!

Need help prepping for your phone interview? Reach out and I'll make sure you are completely prepared!

 

The Most Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

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Welcome to Greg Langstaff's Job Search Mini-Blogs, where I give you a quick burst of awesome advice so you can get what you need and go continue being your awesome self.

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There are three very common interview questions that no one seems to quite know how to answer. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare your answers and you'll rock these questions!

1- Tell us about yourself

Possibly the most ambiguous interview question of all time. What the interviewer wants to hear about at the major transition points in your life that led you to be interested in this field of work.

A condensed example: I studied Creative Writing in school and I became the Communications Director of Creative Arts Students Association, which I really enjoyed. So I took a post-grad certificate in corporate communications and I've loved this kind of work ever since.

2- Why are you interested in this position?

This is a two part question and most new professionals make the mistake of answering one or the other. The parts are; a) why do you want to work at this organization, and b) why do you want to do the work required of this position.

A condensed example: I've always admired McDonald’s commitment to philanthropy and I had a friend who stayed at the Ronald McDonald House when she was young so I've seen first hand the positive impact your organization has. I feel the sponsorship partnership coordinator position is a great fit with the skills I developed as the Community Outreach Chair on my school’s Relay for Life Committee.

3- Tell us about a weakness of yours

Don't tell them a weakness. Tell them something you used to be bad at but have gotten better at. Then tell them how you got better and the result of your improvement.

A condensed example: I used to have trouble with difficult conversations and the cashier team I supervise had a bunch of tension I didn't know how to deal with. So I signed up for a Difficult Conversations webinar online and I applied the skills I learned there to help the team resolve the personal conflicts we were having.

Need help finding your excellent answers to these and other common questions? Reach out and I'll make you a master interviewer.