Readers’ Revenge: Your Worst Interview Stories
It’s time for “Readers’ Revenge,” the weekly feature in which we turn Grantland over to YOU, the unpredictable reader. This week’s topic was Your Worst Interview. To give you an idea of the quality of stories received, I actually had to reject an e-mail where the interviewee licked the side of a ketchup bottle at lunch, and another where the interviewee kept insisting to the (thin, female) interviewer that she would “fill out nicely when her metabolism slowed.” Thanks, Brian and Anne, and sorry, but it was that kind of week. Also, I’ve received a lot of crazy stories, but this week’s no. 1 might be the most batshit of all time.
Below are the top 10 e-mails, and you can check out past installments in the box below. The topic for next week will be Your Worst/Most Shameful Lie. Send your very best to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday for a chance to make the top 10. Stories can involve you or someone you know, and anonymity is allowed. Those with a high degree of hilarity and humiliation always do well. Enjoy!
10. Went for a temp accounting job, near the end of the interview the guy asks me to come around his desk with him so he could “see how my hands are.” After seeing the look on my face, he told me it was so he could see how fast I was on the 10-key punch calculator. Needless to say, no job.
9. A number of years ago, I was fresh out of college and was interviewing for a job in the suburbs of Chicago, selling airtime on an all-sports radio station to potential sponsors. I had been a telecommunications major in college, I loved sports and, most importantly, I was unemployed and had no prospects, so I was glad to get the opportunity to interview with the station’s owner, who was a friend of one of my relatives. Unfortunately, things quickly went south when he realized I had no sales experience. Beyond that, though, he seemed to have taken an immediate dislike to me, based solely, I suppose, on my appearance, my clothes, or whatever else makes one person look at another and instantly decide “I don’t like him,” before even a single word has been spoken. It was a short and rather contentious interview, and it was clear I wasn’t going to get the job. As he led me back to the elevator, another early-20s guy walked by and the owner pointed at him and said, “See that guy? He’s about your age. But he’s a winner.” He walked off and left me there waiting for the elevator, speechless and humiliated.
8. Several years ago, right out of law school, I had an interview with a county prosecutor’s office that I won’t be naming. (You’ll see why in a minute.) I arrived several minutes early, per my school career office’s standard protocol. The guy interviewing me, however, was apparently running a bit behind, as I had to wait about 20 minutes before he finally called me in. He was very apologetic, saying that he was “very sorry; hated making people wait; and tried to be a nice guy.”
Probably less than a minute after going into his office, his phone rang, and he took the call. From his end of the talk, it was apparent the caller was also looking for a job there; it also became apparent he was getting a bit angry with the caller (who was also apparently a former special ladyfriend of his) — his end of the call included statements (delivered in an increasingly angry tone of voice) such as: “We don’t really have anything right now”; “this is the WRONG way to go about this … this is ABSOLUTELY THE WRONG way to do this … WHAT ARE YOU DOING? HAVE YOU BEEN STALKING ME? DO YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS? It’s a PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE!” — then, finally “OK, send him a letter and try to get me in trouble — see what happens.” He then gave the caller the e-mail for the head prosecutor and hung up.
At this point, he turned to me and apologized profusely, saying he was “profoundly embarrassed” by the episode; and asking that I keep it confidential as a favor from “one dude to another” — because I might have had a similar experience (i.e. with a psycho girl?). Then he asked me what I was there for. I told him a job interview, so he remembered, grabbed my resume and flipped through it, and finally said: “There’s one thing I wanted to ask you. You list playing guitar as an interest here, what kind of stuff do you play?” So I told him blues, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, that kind of stuff.
Then he asked me if I had ever tried playing Stones songs in open-G tuning, because most of them were played that way. I told him that while I had heard of this fact, I had never actually tried it myself. So, at this point, the guy says “Hold on a minute, man, let me show you something quick” — and proceeded to grab a guitar from behind his desk, tuned it to an open-G and played the first lines of three to four Stones songs. When he was done he said, “See what I mean; you can play most of the songs like that, you should try it out, man.” The interview concluded shortly thereafter. Unsurprisingly, I did not hear from him again or get the job.
7. In 2008, I moved my family from Denver to Boston for a job offer with prominent software company that will remain nameless. It was by all measures my dream job, but I had to uproot my wife and son, who are Denver natives. Being originally from Boston, I was thrilled to be headed home and excited about the job.
Of course, I was laid off after one year.
Upon losing my dream job, I was desperate to find another job — and quickly. My wife was pissed that I made us move, she hated Boston — too many rude people, too fast-paced for a midwestern girl, that horrible accent, which I’d ridded myself of years before, and the added bonus of all my drinking buddies from my youth living nearby. I was having the time of my life, but I knew that if I didn’t quickly hook up with new work, I’d be Mile High-bound once again. Thus, I hit the job boards hard, applying for anything and everything. I was excited to get a quick callback from a company that was right down the road from where we lived. I literally could walk there if I had to. We set up an interview for the following day.
When I arrived at the interview, the receptionist was on a personal phone call and obnoxiously ignored me for five minutes. She had the typical Boston big hairdo, accent, a Dunkin Donuts cup with lipstick all over it — just a completely unattractive person (at least to me). She then informed me that I’d first be meeting with the head of HR, who unfortunately was not yet back from lunch, and then I was to meet with the president of the company. I sat and waited for HR woman for about 30 minutes before she showed up, slurring her words a bit. She lead me to her barren office, where she apologized for keeping me waiting and told me that she’d been at a luncheon that was held for a coworker. She then asked me my salary requirements. I answered with what I thought was reasonable, albeit a considerable pay decrease from my previous job. She openly laughed at me, stating that the starting salary less than a third of what I told her. Chagrined, I pressed on — I needed a job ASAP. She said “Well, Jim is waiting for you. Let’s go.”
She walked me to Jim’s office. After we shook hands and I settled myself into a chair, he looked at his watch. “I’ve been waiting for you for over half an hour. That’s not very professional of you.” I explained that I was there on time, but the HR woman was late because of a luncheon she’d attended. At this point, Jim bitterly commented that he was angered that he had not been invited to the luncheon. He glanced at my resume and said “Listen, we can’t pay you anywhere near what you were making at your last job. But we have a good time here in the office. That’s why I’m upset that I wasn’t invited today. When an employee has been with the company for 30 years, they get a luncheon in their honor at the Chateau. We always do it at the Chateau, because they have a private room we can use. Anyhow, they invite their friends, and I wasn’t invited today.” Trying to be cordial, I commented “Wow, that’s pretty cool. 30 years and you get a luncheon. Nice. So, would I be able to invite my family to my luncheon?” Jim snaps at me “No. You get to invite up to five friends FROM THE OFFICE! Nobody from the outside — we can’t afford that!”
Shitty salary. Dysfunctional staff. Thirty years until my big luncheon.
I now live in Denver.
6. One summer in high school, I worked as a line cook at a local delicatessen chain. There were about 20 employees working there and as a result of the job duties, the turnover rate was very high. In a response to this, Phil was tasked with frequently interviewing new candidates to fill the empty roles. He would use me to help sort through the resumes and call prospects to schedule an interview. He would also allow me to sit in during these meetings which took place in the secretive “Managers Only” room.
I was never asked to say anything during the interview but to just take notes on each of the pre-scripted questions that would be asked. These questions would be along the lines of “A customer’s meal is $6.95. He gives you a $10 dollar bill. How much change is he owed?” or “How important is attendance to you?” or “What is your biggest strength and biggest weakness?” However, Phil got a sick pleasure out of slipping in completely irrelevant questions just to throw people off. Regardless of the answer given by the interviewee, he would always turn to me keeping a straight face, stare for a few seconds and then I would give a slight nod and pretend to write something down. He would be in the process of asking a string of seven generic questions similar to those above and then ask something like “What is your favorite color and why?” or “Do you know the name of the main protagonist in the Legend of Zelda series?”, only to go back to asking more run-of-the-mill questions.
He wouldn’t subject everyone to this, just the candidates he felt were a lock for the position. One time there was this guy who actually had experience in the culinary industry and was expected to get the available position. After he answered the third-grade level questions quite well the interview took a bit of a turn:
Phil: “So what are some of your favorite hobbies?”
Guy: “I like to collect things.”
Phil: “That’s cool, what kind of things?”
Guy: “Typical stuff you know. Coins … Action Figures … Fingernails.”
Phil: “You collect fingernails?”
Guy: “Yeah, you know, whenever I clip my fingernails and toenails I scoop them up in a jar. It’s only been four years and the jar is halfway full!”
Phil: “… Is there anything else you collect?”
Guy: “I guess books, just normal stuff.”
Phil turns and gazes me. I do not nod.
Phil: “Ok then, do you know how to julienne an onion?”
Phil: “Great. Thanks for your time today. We’ll be in touch if there is anything further.”
The guy was not hired.
—Seth, Conway, Arkansas
5. I was a sophomore at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2006 and needed to find a part-time job for the rest of the semester. During my freshman year, I had lived with a few seniors and one of them was a campus transit bus driver. He used to yell at people walking on the street with the microphone just to scare them and genuinely enjoyed making the passengers uneasy with his erratic driving. It looked fun, so I thought that was the job for me.
Keep in mind, I was a sophomore, and my group of friends and I were smoking a lot of pot then. I even went to the initial interview for the job irie-eyed. The guy interviewing me was a good ol’ boy and I got the impression he wanted me to get the job. I was feeling pretty good about my chances until he mentioned a mandatory drug test for all new drivers. I didn’t panic, or admit that I wouldn’t be able to pass one, I just nodded and said, “OK, when?” The interview was on a Friday, so they scheduled the test for the upcoming Monday.
I spent the whole weekend going to the sauna, running and doing everything I could think of to rid myself of any traces of marijuana. That Saturday, as a precautionary measure in case my increased sweating didn’t pan out, I went to a hip local record store that also sold urine masker at the counter (like I said, they were hip), purchased some, went home and smoked myself silly with my roommates since I thought the urine masker would just cover it up anyway.
Long story short: I failed the test miserably, and later we framed the letter that the transit department sent me telling me I had failed the test, complete with a recommendation for a nearby substance abuse counselor.
Countless lives were likely saved.
4. Some background: the summer after I graduated college, I ended up dating the girl of my dreams, who I’d been crushing on for a year. Naturally, she became the first and only girl to ever totally and completely break my heart.
Understandably (at least, in my opinion), I went on a five-week bender. Drunk nightly, of course, and deciding on a Friday, despite having not done it for months, to get high as a fucking kite. Now, as I’d said, this was shortly after graduation, and I was looking for a job. A friend was working at a Target that was set to open in a month, and scored me a manager interview that following Monday, when Target was interviewing and hiring the majority of their workforce. I showed up, slightly hungover yet swaggering, bypassed the 200 people waiting to interview for minimum wage jobs, and said I was there to interview for the manager position. I was immediately given an interview and sailed through it. I was then told to wait a half hour for a second interview, during which time I noticed a sign that read something to the effect of “Target is an equal-opportunity DFW.” For you kids who aren’t aware, as I wasn’t at that point, DFW stands for “Drug Free Workplace.” I then noticed the LabCorp table at the back of the interview room and realized they were doing day-of drug tests.
After doing the math and realizing that the odds of pissing clean 60 hours after the fact was unlikely, I called a friend who lived nearby and, more importantly, didn’t smoke. Like a champ, he showed up in 10 minutes with a condom half-full of his piss. I left the interview, got the condom, and discretely taped it to my inner leg in a bathroom. (Spoiler: sadly, this story doesn’t end with the condom bursting during the second interview, though the thought had me terrified the entire time.) I aced the second interview and was literally filling out my W2 while being told what my salary and benefits package would be when the interviewer/my future boss said, “Oh, by the way, we need you to take a drug test.”
Ready, I took my cup and entered a stall. Having never been tested before, I was totally unaware that the cups were temperature-sensitive to make sure, you know, jackasses didn’t cheat. I transferred the clean piss to the cup without making any mess and proudly handed it to the LabCorp employee who was there collecting samples. He immediately called over the guy who had just hired me, explained that I had tried to fake the test, and watched as I was “fired” from a job within minutes of having been hired.
3. One of my best friends is a short, horny ginger from Long Island who I met while we were both in drug and alcohol treatment (another story for another mailbag) who I’ll call “Steve.” After Steve and I got out of treatment and all that, Steve decided that he wanted to join the Marines. Since he also played the tuba or some shit, he could get a pretty cushy gig in the Marine Corps Band and travel world blowing on his little tuba and getting cash for college. So, Steve went to the Marine recruiter and got signed up for duty and what-not and went home to pack his shit up. However, one day, a black, tinted Excursion pulls out in front of his house and some CIA-looking dudes with suits and wires coming out of their ears pick him up and take him to, he would later find out, some type of Marine facility.
They put him in a room with some kind of super-official looking colonel guy, who looked at Steve and said, “I know you lied on your application. Just write down the truth on this piece of paper and we’ll be fine.” Naturally, Steve freaks the fuck out and writes down everything on this piece of paper: How he had a drug and alcohol problem, how he’d been to treatment multiple times and is a Tiger Woods-style sex addict. Everything. When the colonel dude comes in he looks at the paper, looks back up at Steve … looks at the paper, looks up at Steve … and screams, “What the shit is the matter with you kid?! We were talking about you lying about the ACL you tore playing football in high school!” Steve was led out of the building, driven home and he never heard from the Marines again.
2. So a few years back, I was out drinking with some friends and we run into someone who worked with one of my friend’s father. This is the only time in my life I would ever meet this person, I don’t remember his name but we’ll call him “Jared.” Let’s just say Jared looks like he knows his way around a party. Somehow the conversation goes to what you do for a living. Jared was a day laborer who would pick up random jobs on work sites. There’s this energy plant in town that had plenty of employment opportunities.
So Jared tells us that he goes down there one morning, he meets up with a foreman or whoever makes the call on who gets work. The process of getting a job looks like it comes down to whether you are a functional human being or not. So it looks like Jared is in the clear until he is asked to take a drug screening right on the spot. Jared shows the level of concern you’d expect a guy of his lifestyle to display but he goes into the bathroom with his cup anyway. He’s all by himself ready to urinate when he comes up with the brilliant idea to scoop the toilet water currently in the bowl into his cup. He must be thinking that they can’t find a bad sample if it is just water. The only problem with this is that there’s blue toilet cleaner in the bowl. This doesn’t deter Jared from getting his toilet bowl sample. Jared leaves the restroom and submits his blue sample. The foreman looks at the sample, pauses for a second (realizing something is awry) and looks the other way and lets Jared know that he’s all set to work. I can’t imagine Jared lasted long at that job.
1. During my worst interview, the interviewer actually dropped his pants.
I was desperate, still in college, and getting married in four months. A guy in his mid-30s approached me when I was helping repair his grandmother’s fence during a summer job. I told him my situation — looking for something in sales — he said he direct connections with the CEO of a major company. Immediately, my older brother told me it was too good to be true, as did my fiancee. I did not listen.
Weeks later we met at a mall 45 miles away from me. I get in his truck and asked where we were going … to which he replied, “The gym.” Confused, I point out that I’m in a suit. He says, “That’s alright, I brought you some clothes.” They were spandex bike shorts. I politely decline the shorts and purchased a pair at the gym. The biggest horror of this entire debacle was my outfit in the gym — new work shorts (check), undershirt (check.), and my navy socks with my shined up black Rockports. Nice look. He starts with some stretches. I ask about the interview and he tells me the CEO is taking a steam. I was into fitness back, then so assumed I might as well squeeze in a workout.
After one set of bench he says, “He’s ready.” So we walk into the locker room. He drops his pants and says, “The interview is in the steam room.” I lose it at this point: “Enough,” I said. “Take me back to my car.” He is incredulous at this request, but eventually takes me back to my car. No words are spoken. I’m about to get out and he has another pitch — “Say, what’s your waist size?” I ask why, and he says he wants me to do a photo shoot.
Reading this, you’re probably saying, “I would have done this,” “I would have done that.” I was shocked by the entire thing.
Soon after we learned he had no affiliation with this company and had I done any research I would have realized the CEO was in the hospital on his deathbed.