Open thread: What happened at your worst job interview? [via Girls]

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In last night’s episode of Girls, aside from laughably blowing the locations of Weather Up and Washington Commons (both bars are in Prospect Heights, not Cobble Hill), Lena Dunham’s character Hannah blows a job interview in spectacular fashion. She makes a date rape joke. Involving the interviewer. As the date rapist. The rest of the encounter is far too painful to recount here, but it gives us fodder for today’s open thread. What’s the worst job interview you’ve ever been on and why? Did the interviewer creep you out? Did you do or say something stupid? Did you completely whiff an answer and stutter for five minutes trying to make up lost ground? I’ll start. I once said the word bullshit in an interview. Duh.

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  1. Early in my NY career, I was a shoe-in for a writing gig at a legal business news wire type thing. After acing the practice test and the trial interview story, I went in for the interview and COMPLETELY flubbed a question about the economy, for which I thought the interviewer wanted a glib answer but actually wanted a detailed description of chinese debt markets.

    Then I found out the interviewer and his managing editor thought I didn’t “address the room” enough, which, last I checked, has nothing to do with journalism or writing.

    And then I started writing for Brokelyn. Hooray for not getting a job I would have hated anyway!

  2. While at an interview for a job at a digital fashion media company, I opened the discussion with an anecdote about shaving my long-haired cat. I think they thought I was speaking euphemistically.

  3. When I first moved to NYC, I tried to get a waitress position in Park Slope. First question: “Name three things you know about New American Cuisine.” Me: “Hmm… it’s a fresh spin on American classics. Like cheeseburgers.” Second question: “Are you a vegetarian?” Me: “Yes!” Them: “Sorry, we’re not hiring vegetarians.”

    In and out in less than 60 seconds.

  4. A few years back I was living with the folks and looking for a commuter job in DC. I finally landed an interview at some company after weeks of fruitless search.

    I got to the interview and the first question I’m asked is, “What did you study in college?” I said, “Germanic Studies.” The interviewer, a chubby, balding man in his forties, perks up. “Wow! That’s neat!” I’m pretty pleased because most employers see language degrees as a liability, I’ve found out the hard way.

    He asks another basic interview question which I hit on the head. Then he says, “I love the theater.”

    “Er, yeah. Me, too,” I say, kind of confused by the non-sequitor.

    “I always wanted to go into acting. Did you start in high school?”

    “Uh, yes, I was in drama but it never really panned out into anything.”

    “But why did you study theater in college?”

    Yep, he thought I said “Dramatic Studies.” When I clarified, he looked crestfallen and wrapped up the interview quickly. I didn’t get the job.

  5. Oh man, this question feels tailor-made for me, because almost all of my job interviews have been nightmares. There was the time, fresh out of college, I went to a temp agency where the guy interviewing me commenced to tearing apart my resume and basically telling me I should feel bad about myself for not being a serious person. Then as a parting shot, he told me, “Also, the tag is sticking up out of your jacket. Fix it.”

    Then there was the phone interview I had for a gig as a corporate speechwriter. I sank that one when the woman asked me what I didn’t like about my previous job and I told her there was too much overtime and that they expected me to work too much. Didn’t really want that job though.

    The interview at a newspaper, right out of college again, where to answer the question of how I could differentiate between what was newsworthy and what wasn’t, I basically repeated something the guy interviewing me had said only moments ago. Don’t know why I didn’t get that job.

    I think I can see why I’m selling fish heads for a living right now.

  6. Second job interview with CNN.

    INTERVIEWER: Well, that’s a really interesting story. You seem to enjoy what you did as a newspaper reporter. If you enjoyed it so much, why are you interested in coming to CNN? I wonder if you really want to leave what you used to do?
    ME: I liked those experiences. On the whole, the newspaper industry is pretty frustrating. Aside from those experiences, I don’t have much to say about the majority of the work I did. I’m interested in a job where there will be a greater variety of things to do on a larger scope. Plus, the compensation and resources are greater. I can’t imagine there being anything bad about this change.
    INTERVIEWER: But if you didn’t enjoy a lot of what you did at your last job, why would you enjoy doing it at CNN?
    ME: Because I wasn’t allowed to do – or it was often too difficult to do – the stuff I wanted to do at my last job. I know a bunch of people who work at CNN. I’m told that’s not the case. It’s why I made it to the interview part of this, I’m assuming. … Also, I’m confused. You asked me why I wanted to leave my old job for CNN, and then you’re saying the reason I left is the reason I won’t like my new job at CNN, provided you give me the job. As long as CNN doesn’t transform one evening into a 12,000-circulation daily newspaper, I think I’ll do swimmingly. I’m a good reporter and writer and editor. It says that’s what you need. … I’m regretting my honesty. Oh, no. This feels– Is this some kind of trap I’ve fallen into?
    INTERVIEWER: I’m just trying to determine if this job is a good fit– 
    ME: Yeah, I get that, but the way those questions are structured, it just sounds like a setup. Is there some handbook you’re working from that, like, lays out what my failure on the previous question means? Because I know at the elite corporate level, human resources people like you get all kinds of weird training in– well, not weird training. But it’s not sitting down to lunch with a prospective newspaper editor is what I’m saying.
    INTERVIEWER: I’m not working from a handbook.
    ME: OK. It’s just– This is my second interview with. The first was for one of those trainee positions. This is a newswriting gig. Both felt like the person on the other end was shining a swinging lightbulb in my face and was prepared to slam my face into a metal desk if I answered incorrectly. There’s a pattern here. That’s all I’m saying.
    INTERVIEW: This is just about us determining if you’re moving onto the next stage of the interview process.
    ME: Oh, I can sense that I’m not. I honestly just want to know the strategy behind the way you guys ask questions over there. The guy who gets to the next round: How did that guy answer the question? Seriously. I’m genuinely curious.

  7. I’m taller than average, so sometimes when people are fishing around for conversation, they ask if I ever played basketball. I never did, but just saying “no” isn’t very interesting, so I usually go with a jokey response that gets a chuckle out of people.

    It didn’t work at the job interview I was at about 10 years ago, though.

    It was the last interview of the day, I was tired, and I wasn’t thinking straight, but I still should have known that when a very short man who could one day be my boss looks way, waaay up at me and says “so…. did you ever play basketball,” the correct answer is NEVER, “no, did you play miniature golf?”

  8. Don’t we all have a lot of these?
    I suppose the worst one I had I FAINTED RIGHT BEFORE IT.(This was like 6 years ago at least). I was on a packed rush-hour E train going from Queens to the Upper East Side and started to feel really hot. I took off my winter scarf and started fanning myself. Then the next thing I remember I had fallen down, someone caught me, sat me down, and someone else gave me a bottle of water. I definitely saw the kindness of strangers in this city! I was fine. Shaken but fine, just wanted to get off the train. Too bad someone pulled the emergency break and we were stuck for a good 20 min. at least. I went to the interview late, and said that the train was stalled due to a sick passenger.
    The woman interviewing me was a nightmare. Totally crazy. She started screaming at her assistant (who’s position I was interviewing for, and then at the people doing construction or something outside). The interview went quick, and I really just wanted to get out of there, I was still shaky and this situation was making it worse.
    The interview ended, and as I was waiting by the elevator the woman who had just interviewed me stepped out into the hallway (it was a home office), and said to me.
    “I’m not going to hire you. I just want to let you know you have to show energy and enthusiasm during an interview.”
    I said thank you and quickly got out of there.
    Anybody that knows me also knows that I normally have massive amounts of energy, just not that day.

  9. The guy who interviewed me (who would have been my boss), at a very well-respected advocacy group, told me that he smoked weed on his shifts at his local food co-op. Then later on in the interview he told me I was underselling myself. Sad part was that I still REALLY wanted it.

    Also, in another interview (I must note that this was several years ago) when they told me what the salary was, I blurted out “JESUS CHRIST” because it was so high.

  10. when i first moved to bk, I interviewed at a pretentious pizza joint (whose bk location was actually condemned months later). first question: “describe pizza.”
    me: “what kind of pizza? NY pizza? deep-dish? napoletano?”
    dude: “pizza in general. pretend i am an alien and have never seen pizza before.”
    me: “ah, ok, well, it’s round, cut into slices, made of bread, topped with melted cheese and toppings.”
    dude: “no, not always.”
    how could i win in this situation? what an idiotic interview topic. i actually got the job, but didn’t last long. I kept changing the pandora station from Grizzly Bear to Dr. John and leaving the ice scooper in the ice. oh, the service industry.

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