Top Unusual Interview Blunders and What Can be Learned From Them

Julie Checknita, Employer Services | February-29-12


Top UnusualInterviewBlunders


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Interviewees, you’ve all been there - sitting in the lobby nervously awaiting that big interview, you may be well prepared, have the right education, experience and skills to excel in the organization, but if you let your nerves get the best of you and can’t clearly convey your strengths or if you make some major mistake in the interview, you will likely lose out on the opportunity.

Interviewers, you’ve been there too. Tired of interviewing, hoping this next interview will be the star you’ve been looking for. You know what you want, what type of skills and experience you are looking for, but from experience, you know the odds are not in your favour.

But, did you ever consider that you may be overlooking a potential star who just isn’t a strong interviewer? If they aren’t working in a role where strong communication skills or people skills are needed, can this be overlooked?

Over the years, The Hiring Site by Career Builder has been sharing some of hiring managers most memorable (not in a good way) interviewee blunders that, while shocking, have and continue to happen. Here is a compilation of my favourites:

Candidates’ most unusual interview blunders:

  • Candidate wore a business suit with flip flops.
  • Candidate asked if the interviewer wanted to meet for a drink after.
  • Candidate had applied for an accounting job, yet said he was “bad at managing money.”
  • Candidate ate food in the employee break room after the interview.
  • Candidate recited poetry.
  • Candidate applying for a customer service job said, “I don’t really like working with people.”
  • Candidate had to go immediately to get his dog that had gotten loose in the parking lot
  • Candidate looked at the ceiling during the entire interview.
  • Candidate used Dungeons & Dragons as an example of teamwork.
  • Candidate clipped fingernails.
  • Candidate provided a detailed listing of how previous employer made them mad.
  • Candidate hugged hiring manager at the end of the interview.
  • Candidate ate all the candy from the candy bowl while trying to answer questions.
  • Candidate blew her nose and lined up the used tissues on the table in front of her.
  • Candidate brought a copy of their college diploma that had obviously been white-outed and their name added.
  • Candidate talked about how an affair cost him a previous job.
  • Candidate threw his beer can in the outside trashcan before coming into the reception office. Candidate brought a “how to interview book” with him to the interview.
  • Candidate asked, “What company is this again?”
  • Candidate put the interviewer on hold during a phone interview. When she came back on the line, she told the interviewer she had a date set up for Friday.
  • Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
  • Candidate was arrested by federal authorities during the interview when a background check revealed the person had an outstanding warrant.
  • Candidate talked about promptness as one of her strengths after showing up ten minutes late.
  • On the way to the interview, candidate passed, cut-off, and flipped middle finger to driver who happened to be the interviewer.
  • Candidate referred to himself in the third person.
  • Candidate took off shoes during interview.
  • Candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer’s coffee.
  • A mature candidate told the interviewer she wasn’t sure if the job offered was worth “starting the car for.”

While common sense should steer most job seekers far from any of the above, there are plenty of less extreme mistakes that many hiring managers say candidates make on a regular basis. Here are the most frequent according to a survey from Career Builder:

  • Answering a cell phone or texting during the interview — 71 percent
  • Dressing inappropriately — 69 percent
  • Appearing disinterested — 69 percent
  • Appearing arrogant — 66 percent
  • Speaking negatively about a current or previous employer — 63 percent
  • Chewing gum — 59 percent
  • Not providing specific answers — 35 percent
  • Not asking good questions — 32 percent

On another note, while some of the behaviors listed below wouldn’t fly in any interview (like, clipping fingernails — unless you’re applying for a nail technician job!), some of the behaviors below, when examined more closely, actually may make sense for some types of jobs — or should at least be given the benefit of the doubt by an employee.

What can employers learn from these examples?

1. When possible, give candidates the benefit of the doubt.

Candidates applying to your jobs are human, and like anyone else, they may do things you deem “weird” or “unusual” but that they see as normal. If you’re interviewing a really strong candidate, and they suddenly break out into poetry or impromptu beat-boxing, think about the implications on your business. Could this be a really creative candidate who just needs the right role and mentoring to thrive and help take your business to the next level?

Or if a candidate’s looking at the ceiling, might he or she be thinking hard or simply very nervous during interviews? Again, depending on the role at hand, these behaviors may simply not be acceptable (outside sales, for example), but if the candidate seems like a great candidate otherwise, what about getting him or her in a different setting or on the company floor and observing the interactions or ideas that come about? The candidate may surprise you.

2. Consider that a candidate may in fact know something you don’t.

Using Dungeons & Dragons as an example of teamwork, although mentioned by an employer in the survey results as an “unusual response,” is actually not that far-fetched. It’s been reported that playing video games may lead to a lucrative tech job, for example, and that playing games like World of Warcraft can be great breeding grounds for real-world leadership skills. Whether it’s an affinity for video games or something else, a candidate’s ability to relate subjects he or she is passionate about to their job role may be worth a listen. Don’t be so quick to write the candidate off — he or she could be your next star employee.

3. Candidates have personal lives, just like you — and sometimes situations happen that are out of a candidate’s control.

A candidate’s dog got loose from its leash while waiting in the parking lot, and Concerned Candidate #1 must attend to his or her pet. Hey, it happens. We all have families, pets, and other personal things to attend to, and sometimes those things unintentionally cross over into our personal lives. A situation like this is more about how the candidate handles it. Does he or she handle it with grace and humor, apologize, and try to make up for the blunder? If so, you may consider letting Concerned Candidate #1 — if not Fido — into your office on a more permanent basis.