Sometimes you can tell a job isn't going to be the right fit before the interview even ends!
All content has been edited for clarity.
“I had a really big opportunity for a job with Siemens corporation sometime after I graduated from college for a technical job that would have paid a lot of money. It was a multi-interview job and I actually got interviewed by three different people. Each one I was a nervous wreck but somehow nailed them and just stayed confident.
Finally, they sent me for the final interview at their headquarters so I showed up prepared, early, suit and tie, certifications and paperwork, etc. I was sitting in the fancy lobby waiting for the interviewer to come to get me and another dude walked in dressed for an interview just like me. I figured he was there for another job so we had a friendly chat while we waited for our interviewers to show up. This was clearly an older, more experienced guy.
Finally, the interviewer showed up and was surprised to see us. He said they accidentally scheduled our interviews for the same time. So he took the older gentlemen and told his employee to take me and we would be interviewed separately. At this point, everything was falling apart. I was not being interviewed by the man I showed up to talk to. Instead, this employee dressed in a T-shirt took me downstairs to the cafeteria and asked me a handful of quick questions in a very unprofessional setting before letting me go.
It was like they decided who to hire before the interview even began. It was a huge letdown.”
“I interviewed for a programmer position. They asked me to bring in a sample of a program I had written. I brought in a simple dBase III+ one on a disk. Note the program itself was simple, but I was very very good at documenting/notating my code, so it looked very complex when you opened up the program and looked at the code itself.
They gave the disk to their current programmer guy to check it out, he took it out of the room. I continued interviewing very well with the manager. Then their guy came back and, literally, flung the disk across the desk back to me and said, ‘You didn’t write this. There’s no way a secretary could do this.’
It’s true I was a secretary at the time, but I had read various teach yourself programming books, taken classes, and written programs as I wanted to get into IT. I absolutely did write the program. The manager and I were just dumbstruck looking back and forth to him then at each other. The poor manager was so embarrassed.
I explained I did write it, he kept insisting I couldn’t have. I gathered my things, stood up, thanked her for the interview, but told her I didn’t think I would be a good fit for their environment.”
“That Messed Me Up For A While”
“In some trades and engineering, you sometimes interview for a job at a company with the companies client. I was doing one of those and the company told me I was interviewing with the client for a significantly lower level position than I actually was.
I know my stuff and am good at what I do, but I’m terrible at explaining or teaching stuff, namely because I can’t remember the actual names of anything. If the work isn’t in front of me or I haven’t prepared basically you should expect a response that is very surface level in terms of conveying my actual knowledge of what I’m doing.
I was told I was interviewing for a basic functional testing gig when in reality I was being interviewed to be an engineering lead for a team on a big new construction project. I realized very quickly I was in trouble, but the guy interviewing me was apparently incensed at the mix-up and decided to make me squirm for ages. The hiring manager called me a couple of days later to apologize because she didn’t realize what was happening with his questions and said if she had she would have stopped him.
I had been laid off about four months before that and this was the first interview I had landed. That messed me up for a while.”
“The first job interview for a job that meant something to me. I went to job interviews for student jobs before, but this was going to be my first job after I graduated from university, and I wanted it. But I don’t like to talk about myself, which you’re supposed to do in a job interview. Being shy or introverted is one thing, but there were questions I was definitely not prepared for. No misplaced questions, but questions I didn’t expect and made me realize that I wasn’t prepared to enter the professional world. Let’s say that my performance didn’t do me any favor.
I think the worst part came when I thought the interview was coming to end. I was asked if I had any questions for them. It never occurred to me that you could ask questions in an interview as a job seeker. So I uttered no.
The head of HR, eyes wide opened, asked me, ‘You don’t want to know who are the people you’re going to work with? Where you’re gonna work? What your responsibilities are gonna be, etc?!’
And I felt bad. I realized instantly that not asking those questions would give the wrong impression about me as if I wasn’t interested in the job. Actually, I was asking myself those very questions on the train, on my way to the interview! But I was never told that I could also ask questions in a job interview.
This is the latest job interview I went to. That was more than three years ago, and I’m still low-key traumatized by it but I got the job.”
Pet Care Technician
“I applied to work the front desk at a Kennel (boarding, grooming, doggy daycare, etc.) The interview went well and I got a tour of the place. Well while on the tour, I saw other employees and they looked miserable. Not to mention the dogs looked miserable too. But the woman who interviewed me offered me to come back for a trial run so I figured okay, I’ll be working out front anyway. Well, two days later I show up dressed in nice black pants, a flowy shirt, and strappy sandals. I walked in and the girl at the front desk just kind of stared at me. So I was like hey, I’m here for front desk training. And she looks at me like, ‘Huh?’
So she called the woman who interviewed me, and she came out from the back and looks at me and said, ‘Uh oh.’
I responded, ‘What do you mean uh oh?’
She said, ‘We were going to have you train for a pet care technician, but I guess you’re a little overdressed to be doing that today.’
I responded, ‘Excuse me? I applied for the front desk. No one ever mentioned pet care.’
She said, ‘Well, we actually don’t really have any front desk openings, but we like you and think you would be good as a tech. You can come back tomorrow if you’re able to in some old clothes and we can train you for that position.’
I was so baffled that I kind of just said okay and left. Literally from my car in the parking lot, I emailed the interview lady saying I would not be returning because I applied and interviewed for a front desk job and that it was extremely unprofessional for her to waste my time, and her own. I zoomed out of the parking lot and got myself an iced coffee to boost my mood.”
“I Essentially Quit Teaching Forever”
“I’ve had a lot of weird or bad interviews, but the absolute worse interview I ever had was when I was teaching overseas and was applying for a promotion to work in city hall, as more of an educational manager than being in the classroom.
I was extremely confident about my ability to get the job, and it was essentially guaranteed to me by a few people. My language abilities were far better than any of the other applicants, and I had a strong resume of previously managing a community center, being a peer counselor, and I also worked as an events planner. I ticked every single box that they were looking for. The thing with that job is that it was a two-year contract, and at its conclusion, you had to leave the country, so lots of people who wanted that job would stretch out their contracts as teachers until they were up, and then apply in their fourth or fifth year for the promotion to get an additional two years. It was essentially the same pay, but far more responsibility and amazing connections.
When I showed up to the interview my heart sank. I knew it was a stunt. There was a panel of four men, and one of my coworkers, another Canadian, who was departing the position I was applying for. One of the four guys was already asleep in his chair. Another of the four was pretending to listen, but I could see his eyes glazed over. Another was doodling on his page.
The line of questioning was really, really bad. I felt extremely betrayed by the guy interviewing me because we were friends, and he had told me privately, not a few days earlier that the job was as good as mine. He would ask me questions about my experience, and then follow it up with, ‘Could you go into more detail about that?’ Then finally sigh and say ‘Well, I don’t see how that has anything to do with the job.’
For example, he would ask me if I had experience in managing people. I said yes, and explained running a restaurant and also running a community center, as well as having four years of teaching experience.
He just shook his head and said things like, ‘But more specifically, how would that apply here?’
I would give very specific examples and he would just sigh and say, ‘Okay, never mind, moving on, what about peer counseling?’
So then I would explain that I had numerous certifications in crisis intervention, in peer counseling, I used to run an LGBTQ organization in university, I mentored many of my students at school.
He did the same thing and just sighed and said, ‘I just don’t see how that’s relevant to this job.’
I switched to the native language, causing some of the non-Canadians to perk up, who had otherwise completely tuned me out, and the interviewer quickly asked me to only speak in English as language proficiency wasn’t being measured in the interview. It was on the job posting that it was essential, and ninety percent of the other applicants couldn’t speak a word.
I walked out of the interview knowing I gave excellent answers but that it was already decided before I walked in that I wasn’t going to be hired. The whole interview was a formality.
This made my blood boil and I essentially quit teaching forever.”
“I was looking for a summer job during college and wasn’t having a lot of success.
My aunt told me, ‘Hey, I’m really good friends with the guy who owns a local pizza shop and taphouse and he’s hiring. I told him about you and I’m sure he’ll hire you on the spot! Just let him know I’m your aunt and he’ll remember. I think he’s at the restaurant now, just go and ask for him.’
I put on a nice shirt and printed out a resume. I asked for him at the hostess station and he came out.
I introduced myself and said, ‘My aunt is a friend of yours and she said you were looking to hire someone.’
He responded, ‘Umm no, not right now. What did you say your aunt’s name was?’
I repeated it and he said, ‘I don’t know anyone with that name.’
At this point, I’m pretty deflated and I confirmed his name. He looked over my resume, asked a couple of questions but kept circling back to my aunt and how she would have known him.
Finally, he asked, ‘Do you have a picture?’
I showed him and he said, ‘Oh, she was in here a couple of nights ago. She uh-‘
Suddenly it clicked and I said, ‘Did she come in, get obnoxiously hammered, tell you her life story and probably stay past closing?’
Relieved, he responded, ‘Actually, yeah.’
Deflated, I said, ‘Yeah that makes sense. Thank you for your time.'”
Test In A Broom Closet
“As a college graduate, I applied for a graphic design position. Before I got to the interview I had to take an online test over basic math and English when I got there, the interviewer set me up in a tiny room, basically a broom closet, with a desk. He handed me a paper booklet as you would get in school for a standardized test and a number two pencil. I asked if the test was standard for everyone before they interviewed, He asked me to break the seal and then he started to initial each page.
As he started to initial the pages, the interviewer said, ‘Yeah, we have a lot of college kids apply, it’s basically a revolving door around here so we want to make sure we’re at least hiring competent people, so everyone takes the same test.’
I asked, ‘What’s with the initials?’
He responded, ‘We started doing this to prevent cheating.’
I asked, ‘Has that been an issue in the past?’
He said, ‘People try to get their friends hired and slip them the test in advance.’
His tone really shifted and his body language got tight and it made me super uncomfortable.
Over it, I said, ‘You know what, I don’t think this is going to be a good fit for me. I appreciate your time,’ then I got up and started walking away.
He got huffy and asked, ‘How would you know, you haven’t even interviewed yet?! But you know what, with that kind of attitude I’m going to ask you to leave.’
I couldn’t help but laugh a little and it enraged him to the point he yelled, ‘Get out of here,’ as I was already back out into the lobby.
I dodged a huge bullet.”
The Big Boss
“I went through a four-month-long interview process with a phone screening, skill assessments that took an hour or two, and three in-person interviews. Feedback was great throughout the whole process and they kept inviting me back to meet more people, so I was feeling quite confident. They also kept telling me this was taking so long because they prided themselves on a very thoughtful hiring process so that they brought on the right people.
Finally, I got to the point where they tell me I was going to meet the big boss for the final sign-off. She walked into the room, looked at my Cover Letter, and asked me to describe my experience and why I would be a good fit. I responded in a similar way that I had done in the past three interviews. She looked at me and said something along the lines of ‘That experience has nothing to do with the role you’re applying for.’ She may have asked another courtesy question and then left the room. I can’t recall.
I was pretty shocked at her candor but angrier that her team couldn’t make that determination during one of the four steps in this process up to that point.
I definitely got way too in my own head after that experience. Now, with five years of distance from it, I know this type of dissonance between senior management and staff is a huge red flag. I dodged a bullet.”
Independent Video Game Company
“My friend worked at an independent video game company and referred me to the project director as an environment artist. He hooked me up with an application and a quick phone interview that went well. But when it came to the on-site interview, red flags were everywhere.
Firstly, I arrived ten minutes early. Or as job counselors would say, ‘five minutes late.’ However, the director showed up to their own scheduled interview twenty minutes late. No, not ‘twenty minutes late to fifteen minutes early’ counselor speak, I mean literally twenty minutes late. And yet they chastised me for showing up so early, and told me, ‘You know, you wouldn’t have had to wait so long if you showed up on time to your job interview.’ Yeah, that’s not what ‘showing up on time to your job interview’ means.
Secondly, they had me do an at-home art test prior to the interview. They gave me three days to draw concepts, model, and texture an entire village. This was on top of a full-time job I already had, so I stayed up until three to four am just getting that done. They weren’t impressed with it and said that it looked like I only spent a couple of hours on the whole thing.
When I assured them that I was actually up super late and only getting four hours of sleep a night, the director said, ‘Ha, a whole four hours!? I guess you’ll learn that if you do a real good day’s work, that’s a lot.’
Yeah, that’s not what ‘a real good day’s work’ means.
Lastly, midway through my interview, the lead programmer, who was sitting in, just fell asleep. He tipped his head down and was out.
I asked the director if he was okay, but the director said, ‘He’s been working two days straight without sleep, he’s fine.’
Yeah, that’s not what ‘he’s fine’ means.
I had already made up my mind that this place just wasn’t a good place for, well not just me, but anybody really. I was wrapping up my answers in quick snips, and just pushing along to the inevitable conclusion so I could go about my day. But the meeting didn’t even end gracefully. The director didn’t give me the expected ‘Well thank you for your time, we’ll put you on file,’ courtesy spiel.
He just dead serious told me, ‘Well, you don’t seem like you’re a hard enough worker for us.’
Then added the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in an interview. He said, ‘It doesn’t sound like you’re cut out for the games industry. Perhaps you should try applying for coding positions in the medical field?’
Yeah, I got ‘learn to code’ at a job interview.
Even worse, all he had to do was look at my resume to realize I was gainfully employed at a large games publisher for three years. And there he was, telling me I couldn’t do a job that I had been doing longer than his fledgling startup even existed.
My friend lost his job there a few months later. Apparently, the company’s main financier pulled out. And by ‘financier,’ I mean the director’s rich billionaire oil baron father, who felt that his son had enough playtime in the United States with his silly game company fantasy, but now it was time to come back home to Morocco. The director just disappeared on a one-way international flight without warning, and the whole company shuttered. The employees were locked out of the building before they could grab anything off the servers, and despite promises they would get copies of their work for their portfolios, the copies never came. Apparently, the director wiped and sold all the backup servers for dirt cheap before leaving.
So, honestly, I wasn’t mad I didn’t get the job. Heck, I wasn’t mad the interview went so poorly. I hate to imagine if they were diplomatic, sympathetic, or had reasonable standards on their applicants, I might have actually ended up working at a place that so royally ripped off their employees. The 2008 crash happened right after they shuttered, so my friend found himself struggling to find work in a closed field with absolutely nothing to show for his last two years of work.”
“It was my first ever job interview, I was maybe seventeen. There was a smiling, friendly young scientist to greet me. He said he was just finishing something off at the moment but asked me to talk to a girl who was working there while I waited.
So I talked to the girl and she described the job and showed me around. The job was collecting sheep dung. You had to go around a huge pasture and collect sheep dung. You also had to log where it was found, time and day, etc.
Then you go back to the lab. In the lab, there was a large centrifuge with plexiglass around it. She put on a lab coat and took a labeled bag of dung, put it into the centrifuge, added a small amount of liquid, and started it spinning. Random specks of liquid sheep dung started to fly out. I looked at the girl. Her lab coat was dotted with tiny green specks of sheep dung.
She saw my look and said, ‘You can have a shower before you go home.’
Yes, they had an employee shower. For the smell. I smelled the girl. She smelled like sheep dung. I decided I didn’t want the job.
Now the scientist came back with a cheerful smile and asked me some questions. I went to a selective high school where you had to be in the top five percent of the state to attend and did well in science and math. He went over to a whiteboard and started giving me some problems. He started off with some simple algebra. I messed it up. His smile disappeared. He gave me some long division I messed it up.
Now his smile was gone entirely. He gave me a list of two-digit numbers and asked me to add them up. I messed it up.
Now looking very sad, he said, ‘Yes, well thank you for applying. We will call you.’
They did not call me.”
Abercrombie and Fitch
“In high school, I applied to work for Abercrombie and Fitch. When I got called for the interview, I showed up at the mall wearing an Abercrombie outfit I already owned because I thought that would show whoever I was sitting down with that I was serious about wanting to work there. Well, it turned out to be a group interview hosted by the General Manager and Assistant Manager, who were all over each other while asking us questions.
The General Manager asked a question and each of us went around in the circle answering. I don’t know what it was about this guy, but he would talk over me when it was my turn. It was embarrassing, not to mention frustrating. These weren’t even interview questions either. It was like what foods we eat, one about what brands we had in our closet, somewhat relevant even though it came off slightly judgy, and some other ones that had nothing to do with working there.
The final question was playing ‘Two Truths and A Lie.’ This was how they were determining who to hire.
Once it got to me, the GM started talking over me again. As badly as I wanted to work there, I was totally done with this interview and I certainly didn’t want to work under that guy. The Assistant Manager intervened and told him he was being a prick and to let me answer. My two truths were that I was learning to speak French fluently and had a job application ripped to shreds in front of my face and the lie was that brown hair wasn’t my true hair color.
The GM guessed that my truths were lies and believed I dyed my hair. He was baffled when I told him that he guessed my truths wrong, but it was okay. I was such a pushover. I ended up not getting the job because I was a week shy of turning seventeen and ‘it was against mall policy.’
My disappointment didn’t last long because I ended up finding out that I would have had to use a major portion of my paycheck to buy Abercrombie clothes and acts as an in-store ‘model.'”