Friday Fail: The Most Bizarre Interview
BY Jeff Haden
Tired of success stories? Every Friday on Inc.com we bring you epic tales of failure and shame. Up this week: Awkward hiring situations.
Most people like a good success story, but who can resist an epic tale of disaster, humiliation, embarrassment, and shame?
I know I can’t.
Hence the start of a new series, the Inc. Friday Fail.
Every Friday I’ll post a topic and invite readers to send in their favorite stories. Then I’ll print the best five or six of those stories the following Friday along with a new topic for the next week.
Since this is the first installment I chose a topic and asked a few friends to participate. They were all long-winded, and one story was really lame, so I’m only printing four.
This week’s Friday Fail: The Most Bizarre Interview
4. The Nibbler
I worked for a company that took an extremely deep dive into the employee engagement pool. I was a supervisor and was asked if I would consider taking a supervisory position in another department. I said yes. Then I found out I would be interviewed by five shop-floor employees from that department.
Keep in mind I was already a supervisor with a decent track record, so I thought I was a known quantity; you either want me or you don’t. I thought it was kind of a silly exercise.
The interview was at 1 p.m. and was scheduled to last at least an hour. I had been really busy that day and hadn’t eaten so I decided to take my lunch to the interview. I explained I had been really busy and asked if they minded me eating my lunch while we talked.
To my credit I took really small bites.
Okay, it was rude and showed an utter lack of respect for the process. But I was hungry.
And I’m still the only person I know who took his lunch to an interview, so there is that.—Jeff (Yes, sadly, that was me. I’m not proud.)
3. The Office Curiosity
I wasn’t in the interview but this is still my favorite story. I worked at a 1,000-employee manufacturing plant. At any time there were at least 100 people working part-time on the shop floor, and the guy in charge of part-time employees interviewed three or four people a day.
One day I was in his office while he was looking through applications and he said, “Hmm, that’s different. This one lists his last three jobs as ‘exotic dancer.’” At the time I was in my early 20s and something of a fan of the exotic dancer industry.
“You have to interview him,” I said.
“I do?” he said.
So he did. And I along with 20 of my female peers just happened to be in the hallway when he came in for his interview.
What were the odds of that?—Caroline
2. The Deer in Headlights
I got called for an interview with a major corporation. I did the prep work, obsessed over what I would wear, rehearsed my opening and closing… I was ready.
I was escorted to what seemed like a small theater with a stage and auditorium seating and everything. The interviewer stuck me on a chair on the stage, turned down all the lights but the stage lights, and sat down in the front row.
I thought that was weird enough but then it got really weird. A bunch of people filed in a door at the back of the theater and sat in the upper rows. The lights were in my face so I couldn’t really see them but I could hear them moving and whispering and shuffling papers. I was too young and too stupid to ask what was going on. Needless to say I was a terrible interview.
Afterwards as I was walking out I said to the interviewer, “That was a pretty unusual interview…”
He said, “If you work for us you need to be always ‘on,’ so we feel it’s important to know how candidates will do when they are literally in the spotlight.”
1. The Nut Job
We ran an ad for a job opening. The next day my assistant told me someone was in the lobby who wanted to alert me to an environmental problem we were causing. (We sell chemicals.)
I brought him in immediately. He sat down, handed me some papers, and said, “You don’t have an environmental problem. You have a personnel problem, and I can solve it. I’m the perfect man for your job.”
Creative move, what’s a little subterfuge among friends, so I decided I would hear him out. I started to ask about his experience and he interrupted me. “I’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “I’ll jump through hoops. I’ll run through brick walls. I’ll let nothing stand in my way. I'll take no prisoners!” Then he stood up and swept the papers off my desk and started pounding on it as he yelled, “I! Will! Never! Take! No! For! An! Answer!”
I just stared at him until he sat down. I waited for a while and said, “Since you never take no for an answer, so let’s see how you take get the f*** out for an answer.”
As I walked him to the door he nearly started to cry. “I will do anything for this company,” he said. He rolled up his sleeve. “Look,” he said, showing me our logo on his arm. “Doesn’t this prove anything to you?”
Yeah, I thought, it proves you’re a nut. I hope it was henna. Then again maybe I don't.—Scott
Next week’s Friday Fail Topic: Worst Fireable Offense. Describe the worst thing an employee has done—or you’ve done. Send your stories to email@example.com.
Feel free to share a story from your business, from a friend’s… or even just a business urban legend.
If you want to remain anonymous—and in this case, you just might—let me know. Then tune in next Friday!
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden