Outrageous Interview Blunders 2011

"What's your company's policy on Monday absences?"

"If I get an offer, how long do I have before I have to take the drug test?"

"If this doesn't work out, can I call you to go out sometime?"

These sound like lines from a movie, but they're not. They are lines from real people ... during real job interviews.

According to a recent CareerBuilder Interview Mistakes survey, hiring managers revealed that they still see certain interview mistakes regularly. The most frequent interview mistakes reported were:

  • Answering a cell phone or texting during the interview (71%)
  • Dressing inappropriately (69%)
  • Appearing disinterested (69%)
  • Appearing arrogant (66%)
  • Speaking negatively about a current or previous employer (63%)
  • Chewing gum (59%)
  • Not providing specific answers (35%)
  • Not asking good questions (32%)

While AOL has not conducted a formal survey on this topic, we have culled stories of some of the most "unfortunate" interview mistakes as told by HR professionals, hiring managers and recruiters. Here are our favorites.

A candidate told me they missed my call because they had another phone interview prior to mine and needed to take a break from the interviewing process.

-- Shilonda Downing, Virtual Work Team

A candidate for an open communications position kept telling the group, "You really get my juices flowing! Like, really, flowing!" We were left with serious concerns about this person being the spokesperson for our agency and mission.

-- Anonymous

A candidate interviewing for a high-level engineering position was invited back for a final interview with his peers. While the engineers were making small talk, the candidate walked down the dangerous path of getting too "pal-sy" with the other engineers. He made several inappropriate comments and cracked a Rogaine joke with one of the balding engineers.

-- Jenny Foss, recruiter, Ladder Recruiting

When we asked the candidate if he had any questions, at first he looked surprised by the question itself. Then he furrowed his brow, thought for a moment and came out with, "Cross dressing isn't a problem is it?"

-- Barry Maher, author of 'Filling the Glass'

A common blunder is when I ask the candidate to give me an example of a time when they made a mistake -- what they learned, what they might do different. I have had several people tell me they have NEVER made a mistake so they had no answer. My thought is, "Well, you just made one now."

-- Kimberly Bishop, N.Y.C-based executive recruiter

A candidate I interviewed was 10 minutes late and did not call. As we were talking, I asked her how her commute was, to give her the graceful entry to explain her lateness. She responded by telling me about her challenging commute, beginning with the argument with her husband about whose turn it was to take the kids to day care that morning. I decided once again to be gracious and asked her if this was a typical morning. She said yes. It was a brief interview after that.

-- Lisa Chenofsky Singer, executive and career management coach, Communications & HR Consulting

During an interview, a candidate said, "Can we wrap this up fairly quickly? I have someplace I have to go."

-- Bruce Campbell, vice president of Marketing, Clare Computer Solutions

A candidate was running late for an interview. When asked by security to show her ID and sign in, she yelled at the security guard and moved briskly to the elevator. Her interview went well, and it was expected that she would be asked to come back for the next round of interviews. After the interview ended, security called the company informing them what had occurred, and she was not asked back for the next rounds.

-- Lavie Margolin, job search advisor

When asked about his hobbies, a candidate replied, "Well, as you can see, I'm a young, virile man and I'm single -- if you ladies know what I'm saying." Then he looked at one of the fair-haired board members and said, "I particularly like blondes."

-- Petri R.J. Darby, president, DarbyDarnit Public Relations

I once had a candidate send his resume to the office crumpled up inside of a shoe. His logic? Just trying to get my foot in the door.

-- Brad Karsh, president, JB Training Solutions & JobBound Outplacement

A PeopleSoft consultant applicant flew to San Francisco to interview with a Fortune 500 company. The company was so impressed with the consultant over the phone, they decided to fast-track her hire and arranged a final meeting with the principal manager in the area. The night before the interview, the recruiter told the applicant to dress to impress. The consultant arrived on time but in five minutes, the interview was over. The reason? The applicant arrived to the interview in a Star Trek uniform. "Dressing for success" is no longer a phrase we use to prep people for interviews!

-- Jack Williams, VP of National Sales and Recruiting, Staffing Technologies

One candidate asked the interviewer when she was due to give birth. The problem was, the interviewer was not pregnant.

-- Deborah Millhouse, president, CEO Inc.

An applicant brought urine to an interview thinking he might have to take a drug test. The urine tested as not human.

-- Michael Hayes, owner, Momentum Specialized Staffing

We were in the final rounds of interviewing for a business development position. The candidate articulated himself gracefully. It was the non-verbal motions however, that caused the problems. As he rocked back and forth in his chair, I suddenly heard a loud cracking noise and noticed the chair breaking. The only thing you could see were this man's shoes with his feet straight up in the air. The next thing we heard was a loud flatus noise coming from the candidate. He got up, looked at all of us and said, "Now that just knocked the wind right out of me," and continued making his presentation like nothing happened. The hiring manager stood up, stopped the interview and said, "You clearly demonstrated that you have the ability to think on your feet as well as off your feet, and when you get completely sidetracked with what seemed like an embarrassing moment, you continued unshaken. When can you join our company?"

-- Kevin O'Malley, chief HR strategist, Sterling Staffing, Inc.

During an interview, an entry-level candidate said, "I don't want to be bored at this internship." It's important for students to know their role and show employers respect.

-- Lauren Berger, CEO, Intern Queen Inc.

The biggest mistake I had a candidate make in an interview was to share with the hiring manager that he had a side photography business he did in his personal time, after hours and on the weekend. This candidate went from being "the guy for the job" to cut loose within five minutes. Everyone understands that what you do in your personal time should be your own business. However, the VP wanted to hire someone that would be fully dedicated to putting in whatever hours it took to be successful in the role."

-- Jordan Rayboy, IT executive recruiter

I interviewed a candidate for my growing business who was exceptional in every aspect. I was sure to hire her. I asked her about her future plans. She said, "I am here to learn your business and then in two years I will become your competitor and run the same business." Needless to say, I didn't hire her.

-- Kapil Rampal, CEO, Creative Crest

When interviewing, it's important to fit in. People hire people they think will add value to the department or company; not the ones they think will exhibit poor judgment. Here are a few interview points to remember.

  1. Your interview starts the moment you walk into the building; anyone you meet may be connected with the hiring manager or the hiring team.
  2. When asked questions about mistakes you have made, be authentic, explain what you learned from the experience and don't get defensive.
  3. If asked about your weaknesses, don't spin weaknesses into strengths; it's not credible and who wants to hire someone they don't trust?
  4. Hang out in the company lobby or parking lot the day before your interview to see how people dress; then dress at least one level up from that.
  5. When asked why you are searching for a job, say something positive about your current or past employer first, then explain your reason for looking.

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