My worst job interview…

@MarkShaw has just tweeted a question:

Over the years I have had a lot of job interviews.. Most were professional, some were very amateur… What’s the worst job interview you had?

I tried to tweet my answer, but there was no way I could get it into 140 characters, so I shall give it here… (Context, as they say, is all!)

I once has a second interview for a job: I think I had basically got the job, and the firm I was going to work with were trying to work out which team I would work with, but I didn’t really know that at the time. I was being considered for two teams: this interview was with the team leader – a pretty senior manager – of one of them. There were no HR or other people in the interview: it was just me and him.

The interview consisted of this guy firing a list of activities or tasks at me as closed questions: “Can you do this? … Can you do that?” It was practically impossible to answer: I worried that saying “No!” might lose me the job.

There was no discussion – no real attempt to dig to discover whether my skills were compatible with his teams’, or whether I had behavioural fit. He wanted yes or no answers.

The first interview had been broadly competency-based, with a psychometric test and a presentation thrown in for good measure. This second interview didn’t seem to fit in at all.

The interviewer came across as a single-minded sociopath who couldn’t hold a proper conversation. Not as someone I would want to work with. It was a lousy advert for the organisation.

Fortunately, I had another interview with the other team leader and one of his team. This was completely different: an exploration of how we could work together, what he could expect from me and what I could expect from him. The difference pheonomenal: I came out of it really wanting to be part of this team.

I was offered the post in the second team. I wouldn’t have worked with the first team if they had offered twice – three times – the money: it would clearly never have worked.


4 thoughts on “My worst job interview…

  1. Eryn

    Worst job interview I had was for United Way – I was supposed to give a speech about how United Way had changed the life of someone I knew. The job was corporate speaker – going around to corporations getting donations. But the interview fell on the first day of summer school for delinquent children, and I was teaching a subject I didn’t normally teach, so I’d had no time to prepare. I didn’t even get all the way through the speech. It was going so badly I stopped myself halfway through and apologized for wasting their time.

  2. Cheryl

    I once applied for a job, and when I went for the interview I discovered the company wanted to interview me for the open position of manager of the position for which I originally had applied. Someone had made the decision, but the recruiter apparently didn’t agree. He spent 20 minutes telling me I wasn’t qualified. I politely agreed. I kept asking if I could interview for the original position for which I was qualified, but that was no longer possible. (I actually made it to the third round for that position, but that’s another story.)

    1. patrickhadfield Post author

      That reminds of an interview for an academic post (post-doc) where the panel were incredibly negative. They convinced me my ideas weren’t worth financing.

      Two months later, they gave me the money, by which time my heart really wasn’t in it – the project wasn’t a success and I left academia.

  3. Chris

    The worst job interview I ever had was with a company selling computer consumables, the guy arrived 45 minutes late, stormed straight past me into a office, and kept me waiting in reception, I heard a lot of shouting and swearing, but presumed it was someone else within the business who was letting of anger (I was wrong)

    Subseqently I was “summoned” to the interview, there was no handshake, and he didn’t give any eye contact he started by asking me what I had done previously, so I gave a brief discussion of what I had done to which he commented “well that’s crap” great start I thought, he then asked me VERY personal questions about my wife and family, especially my two daughters, and I started to get very uncomfortable with the way this was going.

    After the second sexual reference, I started to get very angry with this guy, how dare he say some of the questions he was saying, to my utter amazement, he went into a drawer pulled out a bottle of scotch and poured himself a large tumbler, and drunk it in one go, picked up the bottle and poured himself another, I got up to go, he then said “sell me this jug of water”, “go on sell it”, “or are you full of B*llsh*t”, I was furious, so I grabbed hold of his pile of papers, set fire to it with my lighter, and said “you need it now don’t you?” he then asked if I thought of myself as a tough guy and could I handle myself as I was going to need it, I thought I’ve had enough of this, and this idiots bullying tactics, I said if you come near me, I will report you to the police, anyway I got out of the door told reception that I considered this man to be mentally ill, and a trip to his local Shrink, was advisable, it wasn’t the only horror story to come out of this company and I heard a few years later he had been arrested for harrasement of a female employee.


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