Recruiters reveal the craziest job interview mistakes they’ve ever seen
That spelling error in your thank-you note? It’s got nothin’ on these mess ups.
We’ve all made a job interview mistake we’d rather forget. Whether you goofed the interviewer’s name, arrived late, or spilled coffee all over yourself minutes before meeting the CEO, you probably feel simply awful about it. Whenever you replay it in your mind—and you certainly try not to!—you feel your cheeks getting warm with shame.
But those are nothing compared to some of the fatal mistakes recruiters and hiring managers have seen. No matter what you’ve done during your job search, rest assured that there are others out there who have done much, much, much worse.
Need proof? Check out these stories, which are guaranteed to make you feel better about yourself.
Of course I worked at that company
I caught a candidate lying in his resume. He had made up so much of his previous experience that he then forgot a company name where he said he had worked. The candidate actually asked me to look at the resume I had so he could see what he wrote.
— John Boese, founder and CEO of EliteHired.com in New York City
Does your competitor have any openings?
On the final interview an applicant was asked,”You said you were interviewing with other companies. If all are equal and all offered you a job today, which one would you pick and why?" Apparently the applicant didn't anticipate this question. He said he would go with our biggest competitor, because they were a better company. We told him we hoped he got an offer from them and thanked him for his time.
— Mike Smith, founder of SalesCoaching1 in Windermere, Florida
Oh I’ve worked with some bad people, let me tell you...
I had a candidate go into an interview and bash a senior professional in the industry. While this is bad form no matter what, in this situation the candidate happened to be speaking about the interviewer’s father. The interview ended there and many other doors closed before he even left the room. A good rule of thumb for interviews and life: Don’t speak negatively about others.
— Sarah Frankel, founder and CEO of the525group in New York City
The job sounds great, but could I get your number?
Trying to hook up romantically with the hiring manager. The candidate had a very strong chance of landing the position had it not been for her attempted romantic connection.
— Kevin McCarthy, director of sales and marketing at Fillmore Search Group in San Francisco
I’m here for my 2 p.m. phone interview
I’ve had a candidate show up in person for a phone interview. I don’t know if they didn’t see in my email that it was a phone interview or they thought showing up in person would show initiative.
— Barbara Marks, head of recruiting at eVestment in Atlanta
Can we hurry, it’s a rental
Wearing a tuxedo to an interview. I told him to dress nice and professional for his interview, but he definitely went overboard and crossed the line of dressing business professional. Needless to say, the hiring manager also thought it was a crazy move and the candidate did not get the job.
— Tracey Russell, national recruiter at Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search in Tampa, Florida
I do my best work in PJs
One of my candidates in my early days showed up to his interview in a pink jump suit. The manager emailed me as soon as he arrived and continued to interview him. Afterwards, the manager told me he may have been good, but they were so distracted by the pink jump suit they could not focus on the interview.
— Kevin Raxter, managing partner of The Centrics Group in Norcross, Georgia
But it’s my move in Words With Friends!
We had a candidate miss out on a job because he was playing a game on his phone between interviews. After his first interview, the client left the room to get a coworker who was conducting the second interview. The candidate thought that playing a game on his phone was a good use of time while he waited.
— Sarah Benz, lead recruiter for the Messina Group in Chicago
So, when do I start?
I had a candidate incessantly tell me they were “the best in the market” over and over again. This phrase was added to every sentence as a punctuation mark. It made for a very awkward interview. Confidence is good; arrogance is not.
— Amber Jackson, director of talent acquisition at LISNR in Cincinnati