We asked area recruiters and employees: What's the funniest job-interview mistake you've seen or heard about?
Common themes emerged. Some job candidates answer cell phones during interviews. A surprising number ask the interviewer out on a date. A few too many fall asleep midinterview. Several are so nervous or unprepared that they forget the company name, the position they are applying for, or the interviewer's name.
Some other tales:
"I was interviewing in the spring and had horrible allergies. I was sitting in front of my prospective employer, and I started to sneeze. The button from my skirt shot across the room. The employer never missed a beat. When the interview was over he walked me to the door, picked up my button, and shook my hand goodbye."
--Deb McDonald, Systems Planning and Analysis
"A guy who forgot dark socks to wear with his suit colored in his ankles with a black felt-tip marker."
--Scott Langerman, Comcast SportsNet
"The candidate was sitting with her legs crossed and swinging one leg. Her shoe flew off and underneath the interviewer's desk. She never said a word about it. The interviewer knew what happened because the shoe hit his foot, but he never said a word. She got her shoe back at the end of theinterview."
--Angela McGlawn, Edelman Financial Services
Make Yourself Comfortable?
"The candidate mentioned that she had not had an opportunity to eat and began unpacking a lunch on my desk. She unpacked a china plate, a set of silverware, a cloth napkin, and a beautiful salad."
--Deirdre Appel, Mortgage Bankers Association
"A candidate complained during the interview that she was hot. She then said 'Excuse me' and proceeded to remove her socks. After placing them on the desk, she continued as if everything was normal."
--Wende R. Hoffman Pineda, B.F. Saul Company
"I once had a person clip her fingernails while we were speaking."
--Jackie Rucker, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
"The candidate said that by crossing the Maryland state line he was in violation of his probation but felt the interview was worth risking possible jail time."
--Jim Solomone, Software AG
"Someone was asked what person they would most like to meet, living or dead, and their response was the living one."
--Susan Potisek, Weinberg Group
"I was interviewing someone who took a cell-phone call and asked me to leave my office while they talked."
--William Lyle, Systems Planning and Analysis
Grace Under Pressure
"A friend was being interviewed in a small office, and his chair was flanked by a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. The interviewer asked my friend a question. My friend leaned back in his chair and paused, gathering his thoughts. As he leaned forward, his interviewer's eyes went wide. Books cascaded down, with the crashing bookshelf narrowly missing his head."
--Kevin Keegan, Software AG
"A nervous interviewee came into my office, and in the middle of the handshake he accidentally spit his gum out in my face."
--Yolanda Evans, Project Performance Corporation
In a Jam
"My friend was racing to an interview. She flipped off another driver who blocked her car in the garage. The other driver ignored her, so she started honking and shouting obscenities. She finally got her car parked. She ran upstairs to the interview. The other driver was the owner of the company who was interviewing her."
--Kelley McCormick, Qorvis Communications
"After being interviewed for three hours, I had the office staff search everywhere for my car keys. Come to find that I had left them in the ignition with the doors unlocked."
--Elias Zarkadoulas, HireStrategy
"An applicant had taken a cab from the airport hotel. He had a dispute with the driver over the fare. Unsatisfied with the amount of money he received, the cab driver called the police. The job interview was interrupted by one of our security officers, who had to escort the applicant to the lobby where he was asked by police to pay the cab driver the remaining fare."
--Stacy Murphy, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
"One interviewee made a West Virginia joke only to discover the person was from West Virginia."
--Kelly Anderson, Allied Capital
"The applicant spoke very negatively about his previous boss, only to find out that the interviewer for the new position was the daughter-in-law of the old boss."
--Reginald Humphries, Axiom Resource Management
"Someone going on an interview for an administrative-assistant position went to the company next door to the one she was supposed to be interviewing for. She went in and asked for 'the CEO' (she forgot the CEO's name). The CEO was so impressed with her that he offered her a job. She is still working for that company."
--R.J. Jenkins, Tangent Corporation
Is Honesty Best?
"When a candidate was asked about his greatest accomplishment, he replied that it was writing a short novel. When the interviewer said, 'No, I mean something you did while at work,' the candidate replied, 'But I did write it while at work!' "
--Rick Sherman, Mitretek Systems
"At a previous firm, while interviewing candidates for mailroom positions, we met a gentleman who made a very interesting wardrobe choice. What we thought was a pale yellow scarf tied beautifully around his neck was actually his pet snake, Herbie. When asked whether he thought it appropriate to bring a snake to an interview, he said that he was trying to set himself apart. We discussed the possible shortcomings to his decision, and because he was so honest, he ended up getting the job."
--Kristine Barr-Ouedraogo, GHT Limited