Part of the interview advice collection of articles.
With the painstaking preparation that goes into preparing for an interview and the tension often felt when the hour has come, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of levity in the process. Still, you are not the only person to suffer a faux pas or awkward moment during an interview. Perhaps you said or did something wrong. Perhaps your interviewer was bizarre. Perhaps something just felt weird. Maybe it is Murphy’s Law or perhaps it is just par for the interviewing course. Take comfort from these stories gleaned from the collective experience that is interviewing.
“I was part of a team of eight colleagues who interviewed 50 people in the space of two weeks. Four to seven people conducted each interview, which occurred in a small room. We were stuck in that room for hours. One of the questions designated for me to ask was what the most formidable challenge the person had ever gone through. During one particular interview in which four of us met with the applicant, she began to share her most significant challenge when the Director intervened with a follow-up question, interrupting my chain of questions. Apparently I made an odd face. My colleague saw me and began to giggle. Then two of us began to laugh, and we could not stop. At one point, the first colleague tried to disguise his laughter by blowing his nose, but this just made everyone else laugh more. All the while, the interviewee elaborated on the most difficult challenge she had been through, maintaining solid eye contact with the Director. It was both equally funny and horrifying that we were laughing. Soon the Director said to her: I think we need to ask you to leave until we compose ourselves.”
“The summer internship organization to which I applied had about ten of us come at once, but they interviewed us individually. My meeting was towards the end, so I waited there for an hour before the two interviewers called my turn. They said: we have three questions that we are going to ask you at once, and you can answer the three questions in order at which time we will be done. They told me the three questions, and I answered the first. Then they looked at each other and said, ‘Okay, that will be it.’ Surprised, I asked, ‘Well, do you want me to answer the second question?’ They kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Well, okay.’ I answered as briefly as possible, skipped the third question altogether, and left. I got the position.”
“I sent a digital resume and cover letter via email to apply for a position as a technical writer. Within a few hours, a message from the director in charge of hiring came via email. Full of anticipation, I opened the email to find a terse message: ‘your resume is infected with a virus and has been quarantined.’ A person cannot recover from an infected resume. I did not pursue the position further.”
“At one rather intense interview with a high powered man, the phone kept ringing and interviewer took the calls long enough to say that he would call the people later. He seemed to be telling me that I was a nominally important use of his time or at least demonstrating how busy he was. There was some kind of odd power dynamic going on. Then he got another call, which was clearly from his wife. After saying, ‘Hi, Honey,’ my interviewer only said three cryptic things: ‘is he lucid?,’ ‘do you need me to come home tonight?’, and ‘call me when you know more and can tell me what to do.’ Then he hung up the phone and looked at me.”
“I once interviewed a woman who came in ringing her hands. I asked her the standard interview questions: what are you looking for in a job, what don’t you like in a job, what do you need from a boss? To the third question, she replied: ‘I need my boss to be my best friend. I’m so lonely. We just moved here a few months ago and I haven’t made any friends. I need a friend.'”
“A man walked in and deemed himself the right man for the job I had advertised, even though he did not fit in any sense of the word. After the interview, which highlighted how badly he and the position matched, he started an email campaign. Another man wrote to me on his behalf. Between the two of them, I received at least twenty phone calls and electronic messages: he wanted the job so badly, would I please reconsider? The barrage of follow-up finally waned when I hired someone else, but even then his advocate kept scolding me for hiring someone else.”
“I had to undergo a ludicrous 500 question psychological examination when I applied to be a security guard during college. Among the 500 questions were about 17 questions asking me in slightly varied ways whether or not I have ever thought of killing myself. If the exam had not been a scan-tron, I would have answered, ‘No, but the idea is growing on me every time you ask.'”
“During a particular interview, the interviewer had a dog present. The dog became especially interested in my leg. I kept shuffling and moving to protect myself from the dog, but the person giving the interview took no notice of the dog at all. Uncomfortable as this was, I was actually wondering if it was some kind of test to see if I could maintain my concentration.”
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