Find Work Find Talent

Base image via K.A.M.P.

These Interview Horror Stories will Chill You to the Bone!

Written By Molly Hitchings | Oct 27, 2015

A job interview is a nerve-racking experience. Strangers judging you, assessing company culture and deciding if you fit in…it’s not always a great process.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re not all awful. Nothing is better than walking out of an interview and wanting to hop, skip, jump and scream “I NAILED THAT!” at anyone who’ll listen. But those interviews you finish and immediately want to smack your own face a few times? Those are the ones worth talking about.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll start by putting myself out there with one of my worst interview moments.

Grin and bear it

Molly, Production Designer (at the time):

Prior to my move to Austin, I actively looked for a job during quick visits, trying to secure something. I emailed creative directors, called graphic design leads…anyone that would meet with me and look at my resume—I considered that a win. After being extremely persistent, I finally landed a meet and greet with a creative director at one of the top agencies in Austin. Feeling confident and excited, I went in hoping to kick ass and make a good impression.

“Thank you for the constructive criticism.”

I sat down with two of the top dogs from the agency, talked about my experience and walked them through my portfolio. After letting me talk about myself for a while, the CD quietly pulled up a current employee’s portfolio and put it side-by-side with mine on his computer. When he asked if he could give me some feedback, I could have said ‘no way’ and ran, to protect my heart and soul. But instead I said, “Of course! I would love to hear what you have to say.”

He ripped my portfolio apart, telling me everything that was wrong and how my portfolio didn’t compare to his current employee’s. I sat through about 45 minutes of this, tried to smile, and said, “Thank you for the constructive criticism.”

Walking out of the office, I immediately called my friend and explained how my life was over and I just ruined all chances of a career in Austin (dramatic, I know). Although it was one of the worst interviews I’ve ever had, in a way, it was also the best. I changed the direction of my job search, fixed my portfolio, and made sure that I would never get myself into that situation ever again.

Dungeons are for dragons, not designers

Peter, Visual Designer:

I’m usually very honest and can use my blunt nature to aid in my humor. Sometimes I let my mouth move before my brain has the chance to catch up, however, which can be detrimental. Awhile back, I applied to a job at a pretty big tech company, and mid-way through killing the interview, I completely expected to get the job.

On my last part of the interview, they led me downstairs through a dark corridor that was cold and almost entirely silent, with the exception of the faint clicking of keys being pressed on keyboards by people hidden inside their enormously high-walled cubicle cocoons. We ended up in a conference room on that same floor, and continued the interview process.

They told me that this was where I would be working, then asked me how I felt about working in a cubicle. I instantly blurted out, “Actually, I’m terrified! I felt like I was just walking through a cold dingy dungeon with no life. But I think I could adapt.”

This was true…but perhaps not the best thing to say. I think it might have impacted my chances to get the job…because I definitely did not get it. Regardless, I’m very happy I didn’t. I probably would still be there and not in my current (amazing) job, which features very low-walled cubicles, lots of light, color, energy, and people who aren’t vampires.

HR: Human Resources or Honestly Ridiculous

Sarah, Project Manager:

I’ve been passively looking for a new position here in Austin for some time now. I don’t want to rush into anything—I want to make sure it’s a great move for me. So when ***** asked me in for an interview, I was very excited that this could be a great new opportunity.

I arrived at my interview to find out that HR had never confirmed the meeting with my interviewer. I had prepared, taken the time off from my current job, and was all ready, only to find out that they forgot to mention me to anyone else within the company. Needless to say, I left. They aren’t worth my time.

Now, a few weeks later, I’ve discovered that they’ve mixed up my contact with a Sarah within their HR department. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve received numerous offer letters that are supposed to go to HR. Now I have knowledge of their base pay, bonus structure, etc. To top it all off, today I got CC’d on the hiring letter for the position they “interviewed” me for. Bravo, *****, bravo.

Learning how to market myself

Alex, Marketing Coordinator:

After graduating from UT with a masters in advertising, I was having a surprisingly difficult time finding a job. I felt inspired and excited to get out into the working world, but wasn’t having much luck. When it rains, it pours, however, and I eventually landed a bunch of interviews with some great companies. One of them was for a marketing coordinator position, and I was really excited.

“YAWN, what’s your REAL passion?”

During the interview, I met with a few of the managers, had a great conversation and felt extremely confident. The last ten minutes, however, were with the CEO of the company. He asked me odd questions like, “How did you pay for college?” and “What are your passions?” When I told him I was passionate about branding and design, he said, “YAWN, what’s your REAL passion?” I responded by saying that I do love adventuring and trying new things. He then challenged me by giving me a look and saying, “Name three adventures you’ve been on in the last year.” I felt attacked.

To top it off, he asked me what area of town I live in, to which I responded that I lived up north with my roommate. He later told me not to “mention [my] roommate during interviews because it implies you can’t afford your lifestyle and you are asking me to subsidize it.” I was shocked, insulted, and annoyed.

The interview taught me to really think about how I respond to questions, depending on my audience. I thought my answers were personal and real, but that’s not what this guy wanted to hear.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.