Interview Horror Stories

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A commanding cover letter and an impeccable resume can land you the interview. But you still have to ace the face-to-face with your future employer. We're sure you won't make these mistakes. But if you ever bomb an interview, just remember these stories. They should cheer you up.


A case of the giggles

Jennifer was just out of college at Michigan State University. She was a 22-year-old aspiring kindergarten teacher with hundreds of hours of volunteer experience. She quickly earned an interview at the elementary school in her Michigan hometown. It didn't hurt that her mother was a beloved English teacher in the district's high school. The interview team assumed they'd love her, and were ready to offer the $35,000 a year position as soon as the interview was complete. Still, they needed to go through the formal steps before they could hand over a contract.

The school counselor, two teachers, the principal and the superintendent went through a list of questions. She answered each with ease.

Then came this.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?" the principal asked.

That's when Jennifer couldn't control herself, bursting into a fit of laughter that only got louder.

"She couldn't control herself. It went on and on. Finally, she excused herself to the bathroom and she never came back."


When dressing the part is not an option

Karen was a pro interviewer, filling temporary TV production positions for a cable network each season. She was meeting a video editor for a three-month gig paying $1,000 a week. He had a decade of experience and the skills to match. This would just be a formality. He said he had no problem meeting up for the noon interview. He'd just run out from his current freelance gig. No one would notice he was missing at lunch.

"Here comes this guy in full construction gear, even the boots and hat in hand," Karen said. "He apologized, but couldn't help but leave a cloud of dust."

Apparently the editor also did construction work on the side.

"It would have paid to bring a change of clothes, or at least warn me," she said.

Karen said she still considered the candidate, since he was timely and had done great work. Ultimately, she just couldn't excuse the dust.


Hiding your true character

John was a local television producer, ready to jump to bigger TV market. He'd worked in Champaign, Ill. for four years, winning several awards for his breaking news coverage. The news director at a Minneapolis station was impressed with his resume, bringing him in to interview for a $60,000 a year job producing the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscast.

"I was eager to meet him. His reel was impressive. I thought I'd found my guy," he said.

John showed up in the perfect interview outfit, black suit and conservative blue striped tie. Unfortunately it was an unusually hot day, close to 90 degrees. The newsroom is fairly casual and the news director suggested he take off his jacket.

John was wearing short sleeves and had apparently tried to cover his tattoos with thick body makeup. His sweating made the makeup smear all over the jacket. It was an embarrassing mess.

"I really didn't care that he had the tattoos. But the experience was just so strange, I couldn't offer him the job."


Foot-in-mouth disease

Lying on a resume is all too common, so much so that many employers will tolerate a little stretching of the truth.

Maureen was one of those truth-stretchers. She was new to the television production business and had listed herself as the project manager at her previous job. She was interviewing for a similar position at a slightly larger company. The job paid $70,000 a year.

"I asked her about her management style and how she kept her team organized," the hiring manager said.

She went on to say that as coordinator, she assisted a half dozen writers, designers and editors.

"I didn't even notice that she'd called herself a coordinator instead of manager. But realizing her own mistake she just started talking in circles."

Apparently she just couldn't let it go, finally bursting into tears.

"I think she thought I'd call her current boss. Of course not. But there was no way she was getting the job," he said.


When you have to go to the bathroom

Anita drove three hours last second to make it to a day-of interview. She was up for a college-recruiting job in Nashville. Apparently the person the school administrators had hoped to hire turned the position down. Anita was visiting her boyfriend in Memphis, but assured the hiring manager she could make it in time for the interview. Unfortunately her bad luck started early when she got a speeding ticket on her way, adding an extra 30 minutes to her trip.

"I had to change my clothes at red lights while I was driving. It was a mess," she said.

Somehow she made it on time, and was immediately ushered in to meet her interviewer.

"I was amazed at how well I pulled myself together, but I had no time to make a quick run to the bathroom," she said.

Twenty minutes into the interview Anita just couldn't take it anymore.

"I should have excused myself right away, but I didn't want to be rude," she said. "I had to interrupt them to ask where the ladies room was. It was a very sad ride home."


Next: 43 Things Actually Said in Job Interviews >>
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