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December 23, 2010 / Mervyn Dinnen

What’s Your Worst Interview Experience?

Bit of fun for Christmas, I thought I would find out what were our worst interview experiences..the real tough or bad interview questions that we’ve been asked or the really unusual interviews that we’ve attended.

I remember one, earlier in my career, where the guy interviewing me kept asking mental arithmetic problems in between the questions…I asked him why and he said that it was the best way to find out if the interviewee had a quick mind. Maybe he had a point! I got them mostly right, but I can imagine the approach would not be to every one’s liking.

Then there was an interview after work where we sat opposite sides of a desk. There was no overhead light, just a desk lamp, which was turned ever so slightly towards me. I ended up with light in my face, whilst the chap interviewing me was in semi-darkness. Most odd and very unsettling.

As for individual questions, I’ve had the usual round of ‘where do you want to be in five years time’ or ‘if you were an animal, which one would it be?’ but one that did stand out was ‘if they made a film of your life, who should play you and why?’

What are the ones that really stand out for you? Let me know.

Ever attended any like this?…

 

 

 

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5 Comments

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  1. Doug Shaw / Dec 23 2010 10:38 AM

    Hi Mervyn – oooo, good post and thanks for the chance to participate. Three things spring to mind:

    First interview for job at BT. All went well, got up at the end to shake hands and spanked the big bottle of water on the table – it went flying and hit the HR guy. The lid stayed on but how embarrassing. Game over I thought….

    Second interview for job at BT. Being interviewed by the guy who would be my boss, and his boss. His boss chucked his pen across the table at me and asked me to sell it back to him. My instant split second reaction was – this guy’s a jerk….I sold him many pens in very little time. I’m glad I overrode my instant reaction but I’ll never forget what a jerky, cheesy way to conduct an interview.

    Many years later…

    In my final interview for what was to become my final position at BT, I told the CEO of Global Services my favourite hobby was making mistakes. He choked – “What!!!” I explained that you only learn when you get things wrong so fail fast learn fast. I got the job and spent the next 18 months making loads of mistakes and delivering lots of exciting projects along the way. BT used to spout a crappy acronym, RFT. It stood for Right First Time. A pointless, impossible, unambitious dream. My team adopted and adapted RFT and called it Rapid Failure Time. We had the most fun and the most success with our brand of RFT.

    Cheers – Doug

  2. jane blackmore / Dec 23 2010 4:32 PM

    Ha, my fave was; are you having more children?

    Didn’t get the job!

  3. Jim and Evil Skippy / Dec 23 2010 6:19 PM

    Some experiences are bad for the interviewer. I’ve had applicants covered with bugs, a screamer and one tried to strangle me. Thankfully, these were not all the same person. I wrote about another bad experience today in “The Nose-Picking Interviewee.” http://www.evilskippyatwork.com/?p=464

  4. Richard Sherman / Dec 23 2010 8:08 PM

    A most excellent way to wrap up the year (although I’m still plugging away today and will be working next week…but onto the meat of the matter): Love reading these and thinking about how they impact everyone, and they absolutely become part of our HR collective experience. At conferences, you can often hear, “This didn’t happen to me, but let me tell you about something that happened to a friend of mine in HR at a big corp…” etc.

    Two of my favorites of my own:

    Granted the position I recruiting for was entry level and I knew many of the candidates would be interviewing for the first time, I was still stunned when I had one gentleman, of an age that he should have known better, answered my questions but only barely, and with a hint of resentment. Simple questions like “why do you want to work here?” were met with “Um. Well. It looked like it would be a good job.” I paused, waiting for more. Pause. So I prodded ever so with “okaaay, what about the job posting or what I have told you so far makes you think it would be good? What about it is interesting to you?” Pause. “Uh, well…what are the hours again?” Needless to say, that interview ended rather quickly.

    Icing on the cake: When he got my “thanks but no thanks” letter, he actually called and wanted to know why we didn’t hire him. I actually explained it to him, mostly because I was so stunned. He still didn’t understand. No surprise there.

    And then my own interview experience was while I was a temp many (MANY) years ago and the owner of the company where I was hoping to get hired as a regular employee asked me, “what does success mean?”

    I said, “well, for me…”, and he cut me off and said, “No, not to YOU, what does success MEAN?!”

    I said something about finding work that you like doing and making whatever positive impact you can in the world. To which he replied, “WRONG! Success means making enough money to support your family.” So I nodded, muttered some sort of agreement, and tried to listen as he then went on and on and on about his own rise to being a “success”. I got the job, and managed to be successful there by agreeing with the owner and then doing whatever I thought was the right thing.

    Thanks for letting me play!

    Richard

  5. Alconcalcia / Dec 23 2010 8:19 PM

    My most memorable was when I was interviewing for a position and got a call from reception saying the person had turned up. By the time I got down there to collect them not 3 minutes l;ater, they’d gone. Disappeared. Done one!

    Here are some typical questions and how not to answer them:-

    Interviewer: What is your greatest accomplishment?
    Interviewee: Finishing Phantom Mutant Death Fighter 3 for PC – and in work time too! Have you played it?

    Interviewer: Could you sell me this pen?
    Interviewee (shouting): Get your pens, only 50p. Everything must go. Come on sweetheart, you know you want one!

    Interviewer: If our roles were reversed, what question would you ask?
    Interviewee: Where did you get that terrible blouse?

    Interviewer: Who in the world, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
    Interviewee: Oooooh that’s a difficult one. Er, I’d have to say ‘living’ I think.

    Interviewer: Describe a complex problem you have had to deal with.
    Interviewee: I had a STD once, but don’t worry, it cleared up ages ago.

    Interviewer:Do you prefer delegation or hands on control?
    Interviewee: Er, what are they? Boy bands or something?

    Interviewer: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
    Interviewee: Shouting up at the window ‘get a life’ to anyone who’s sad enough to be working late

    Interviewer: Are you prepared to relocate?
    Interviewee: Certainly. Where would you like me to sit?

    Interviewer: What do you think you can contribute to the company?
    Interviewee: Well it depends how much I have left at the end of each month

    Interviewer: Can you act on your own initiative?
    Interviewee: I was in the school play once, but to be honest I’m no Sir Michael Caine.

    Interviewer: ‘What would you say is the biggest risk you ever took’?
    Interviewee: Probably unprotected sex’.
    Interviewer: I meant in the workplace.
    Interviewee: Yes, funnily enough it was. You know what those Christmas parties can be like!

    Interviewer: What are your career goals’?
    Interviewee (proudly) 15 in 155 appearances for my local pub team!

    Interviewer: What would you like to avoid in your next job?
    Interviewee: It’s not so much a case of ‘what’, more ‘who’. Honestly, there were some right sad sacks at my last place!

    Interviewer: How do you cope with change?
    Interviewee: I put it in a piggy bank and buy myself something nice with it at Christmas

    Interviewer: Are you willing to travel?
    Interviewee: Duh? How else am I going to get here in the mornings?

    Interviewer: Describe the best boss you ever had.
    Interviewee: About five eight, a petite blonde, breasts like beach balls

    Interviewer: Do you prefer working with a male or female boss?
    Interviewee: Oh please. Give me a man every time. I mean women. Temperamental or what? Actually just make that ‘mental’…… Your good self excepted of course.

    Interviewer: What unfinished business have you left behind that you wish you had concluded?
    Interviewee: I had a bit of an altercation with one of my colleagues. But don’t worry, I know where he lives. He will get his.

    Interviewer: Tell me about a time when you didn’t get on with your colleagues.
    Interviewee: Time? How long have you got? I’ve got plenty of stories where that’s concerned.

    Interviewer: What’s your relationship with your former employer?
    Interviewee: Purely platonic. Mind you she looked like she knew every branch of the ugly tree intimately.

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