The Most Embarrassing Job Interviews
9 Awkward Job Interview Stories
Some people are prone to awkward encounters or embarrassing mistakes; for others, these cringe-worthy moments happen at exactly the wrong time — a job interview included.
We've all had our fair share of blunders, and sometimes after a job interview goes terribly wrong, all you can really do is chuckle at yourself and take the lesson learned. And, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others.
You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
Most Embarrassing Job Interview Stories
Here's a compilation of some of the embarrassing job interview moments that I've heard about. Hopefully, you'll be able to apply the lesson to your own interview preparation, and maybe even have a laugh as some comic relief from your own job search.
Candle Store Cologne: I was asking one of my fraternity brothers advice about finding a job. He had been pretty lucky, and despite the heavy job competition, he had three decent offers. He claimed his 'secret touch' was that he always mailed a hard copy of his job application, spritzed with a spray of expensive cologne.
When I was applying for my first job, I did the same thing. I got a call back in a few days, scheduled an interview, and went in wearing my cologne, thinking his secret had worked.
Well, I was lucky to be applying to a company with a laid back office culture.
They had all joked that the application had smelled strongly of a 'shopping mall candle store' and that it had 'stunk up the whole office.' Fortunately, they were impressed with my work experience and hired me anyways, but, now I know that my friend's secret does not work!
Always Knock First: I had too many cups of coffee and really had to use the bathroom before my appointment began.
I ran in from my car and was already starting to undo my belt when I barged into the unisex, single-stall bathroom.
Apparently, I didn't hear the woman inside yell, 'One second!' when I was opening the door, because I ran in just as she was fixing her skirt in front of the sink. I slammed right into her, apologized and ran out. I was so embarrassed that I ran to find another bathroom in the building. When it was time for my interview, I was directed to a corner office and guess who happened to be my interviewer — the woman I had walked in on in the bathroom!
Double Checking Attachments: I was in a rush applying for a London internship program, since I realized the day I found the program online was the day the application was due. The deadline was midnight, and that day I had class until nine. It was ten by the time I got home and time was flying by as I scrambled to get together my resume, cover letter, recommendations, and application essay.
I hastily attached all the materials to my email, and just as I clicked send, I realized I had attached the wrong document for my application essay: instead of "London Abroad Program Essay" I had inserted the journal I kept in Microsoft Word about the semester I had studied in London the year before, which had a similar title.
I tried to send another essay explaining how my experience actually made me a better candidate for the job since I was familiar with London's culture and knew the city, but the journal wasn't 100 percent 'safe for work' as it had chronicled all parts of my time there, from my visit to the Buckingham Palace to nights at the pub. I never heard back from the program.
Donkeys vs. Elephants: I had a real jerk of an interviewer who seemed bent on trying to decipher which political party I belonged to. Although politics were completely irrelevant to this company, it was the month before the Presidential election, so I think he was just really fired up about it.
First, he asked, 'If you were an animal, would you be a donkey or an elephant?' I said I would be neither, and before I could think of what animal I would be — a strange interview question, I know — he interrupted, 'So if I walked into your living room after dinner, which channel would you have on?
Fox or MSNBC?'
Again I said neither, biting my tongue despite the fact that I have staunch political beliefs and have actually campaigned heavily for certain candidates. He continued to press me, and I tried to stay neutral but then he began to rant about the election, and eventually it turned into a full-blown political fight. I ended up storming out and obviously I didn't get hired.
Don't Walk Down Memory Lane: It's a small world they say, and during a recent job interview, my interviewer and I figured out we went to the same college, in a small town on the East coast. My husband was born in that town and lived there is whole life, which is where we met.
Although the interviewer was about four years older than me, we still knew a lot of the same people. As we started hashing out the past I came to a horrible realization — she was the sister of the woman my husband had married at a very early age, then divorced, in order to move away with me when I got a job in Los Angeles. It had been a very messy break-up and she hadn't put two-and-two together until we started discussing the past, since I didn't change my last name when we got married for the sake of my career.
Once she figured out the connection, I could tell she was trying to remain polite but it just wasn't working. She dismissed the interview and I never heard from the company again.
Social Hour at Starbucks: I had just gotten back from an extended spring break — I had finished college one semester early and spent almost two months in Ibiza, Spain — and had arranged a last-minute interview for a summer fellowship just two days after arriving back in the States.
I made the mistake of scheduling the interview at a Starbucks on my college campus, and had several instances of bad luck — one, my interviewer was a young man who looked like he could have been my 'bro' rather than a potential employer; two, it was finals time so everyone was in the coffee shop studying and looking for a distraction. The interview was interrupted numerous times by my friends approaching me, asking me when I had gotten home to the States, and commenting on the photos I had posted on Facebook.
After the third interruption, I told my friend that I was in an interview and to let others know I would catch up later. By then the damage was done. I didn't get the job.
It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere: I had a very important follow-up interview on a Friday morning, but I had prepared relentlessly, had a good phone interview first time around, and was pretty confident about how the interview would turn out.
Since I had to jump on the Subway and rush to my part-time job after the interview, I decided to stop by the liquor store before the interview to prepare for what I imagined would be a celebration. I purchased a bottle of vodka at a corner store, then started walking to the office building. My nerves were growing and I figured it wouldn't hurt if I did one shot just to take the edge off. So, I took a swig, then shoved the bottle in my briefcase.
After we shook hands the interviewer started sniffing the air and asked if I had been drinking. Of course, I said no, but then I smelt for myself how strong the scent of Vodka was. I hastily explained I had picked up a bottle of Vodka for a friend and was carrying in my briefcase — as if that made the situation any better. I didn't get a callback.
The Importance of Puppy Sitters: I recently adopted a dog that has really bad separation anxiety when she is left alone in the house. I had a job interview scheduled for the late afternoon and despite asking around, I couldn't find anyone to look after her for the two hours I figured I'd be gone. I ended up taking her with me and leaving her in the car, then arranging for my fiancé to get the car with his spare key and take her to the park until my interview was done.
It was a hot day but I knew it would be a maximum of ten or fifteen minutes she'd be in the car alone; plus, I left all the windows cracked open. Well, someone from the company was coming in from a late lunch and spotted my dog in the car. She ran into the office, which is very small, and started ranting about what a horrible person would leave their dog in the car during weather like this, and how she was going to call the police.
I heard the ruckus she was creating from the office I was sitting in and I definitely didn't want the police called on me, so I had to interrupt the interview and explain the situation, although she didn't care much for my explanation. Turns out that woman would actually have been one of supervisors if I had gotten hired, but needless to say, I didn't.
I Lost the Job to a Plastic Fork: My roommate and I have a really bad habit of letting our dishes pile up, to the extent that we never have clean dishes and our utensils are always buried dirty at the bottom of the sink. To make up for this I've developed another really bad habit: stealing, or as I like to say, 'borrowing,' plastic utensils from places like Starbucks, Subway, Chipotle...you get the picture.
My interview was in a corporate office building in my city's business district, meaning there are a lot of fast-food-style restaurants where employees eat lunch and get coffee. I arrived very early for my interview and decided I'd take advantage of the opportunity and collect some utensils for the apartment. By the time I went in for my interview I had grabbed handfuls of utensils from about five different places — meaning I probably had between 50 and 70 forks, knives and spoons in my handbag.
I sat down for the interview and at one point I kicked over my bag — and all the utensils spilled out on the floor. I didn't know what to say, so I started stuttering, and all I could think of was, 'Oh, my roommate asked me to get these.' I didn't get the job.
Most Common Interview Mistakes
Here are some more interview mistakes candidates for employment make including not taking the time to preparing — and not having a clue about your prospective employer, dressing the wrong way, saying the wrong thing, talking too much — or not talking enough.