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Great Places to Work: “These Cute Red Shoes? They’re My Wife’s…”

Some job candidates are memorable. Here are people who made a big impression in interviews, including a man who asked for a hug.

Getting the company name wrong. Showing up in flip-flops. Answering a cell phone during the interview. Leaving tags on a new suit.

These are some of the tales we heard when we asked area recruiters and employees: What’s the funniest job-interview mistake you’ve seen or heard about?

Here are other favorites:

Pet Peeves

“I was at a job interview at a CPA’s office where the employer brought his dog to work. While waiting for my interview, I was sitting with my legs crossed and one shoe dangling half off when the dog grabbed my shoe and took off with it. I had to follow him through the office to retrieve it.”

—Margaret Kirk, George Mason University

“An interviewee brought a cat and proceeded to pet it during the interview.”

—Shane Oleson, Keymind, a division of Axiom Resource Management

“Years ago at another company, an applicant came in with a small tote bag. Ten minutes into the interview, he exclaimed: ‘My dog is missing!’ With that, the interview stopped and the search was on. The dog was located with many oohs and aahs from the personnel who had found it. A job offer was not extended.”

—Alan Klink, TerpSys

Do Not Disturb

“In another organization, a girl came in for a job interview and, while waiting in the lobby, was listening to headphones. When we called her back for the interview, she removed only the left earpiece. The other manager said, ‘Did you want to take off both headphones?’ and she said, ‘Nah, it’s cool—I can listen to you and my music at the same time.’ ”

—Raul Burgos, Food & Friends

“One interviewee took a phone call from another company that wanted to interview her. She turned to the interviewer and asked, ‘How much longer will we be? I have another interview to go to.’ ”

—Hilary Benoit, WR Systems

Dress for Success?

“We interviewed a gentleman, and all the ladies in the office commented on his red shoes. He replied: ‘They’re my wife’s. We have the same shoe size. Women always love these shoes.’ ”

—Eric Spears,Kleimann Communication Group

“A friend was interviewing for a job in another city. On his way out of town, he picked up his black suit from the cleaners. When he was getting dressed the next morning, he realized he’d picked up his wife’s black pantsuit instead. Left with no alternative, he wore it anyway.”

—Jennifer Bemisderfer, Consumer Electronics Association

“At my previous employer, a friend in college was applying for a yearlong fellowship. She’d had a first interview, to which she’d worn a summer skirt, casual shirt, and sandals. Prior to her second interview, an advocate advised her to ‘wear something more formal’—and my friend took that to mean an evening gown. She got the job, but on her last day the staff all wore evening gowns.”

—Craig Pirner,Advisory Board Company

“The candidate had left a curler in her hair. It was at the back of her head and was the size of a Coke can.”

—Devette Lancon,Booz Allen Hamilton

Revealing Moments

“Years ago when I was interviewing at a real-estate firm in the Tysons area, the elastic waist of my slip broke. The slip fell around my ankles as I stood up to greet my interviewer. The prospective employer was a consummate gentleman—he never even cracked a smile while I stepped out of my slip and put it in my briefcase.”

—Debi Corbatto, George Mason University

“I once interviewed a young woman who dropped her pen down her blouse as she was responding to a question. She didn’t fetch it or acknowledge that it had disappeared.”

—Jim Bausell, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Too Much Information

“I like to ask prospective hires: ‘Think of the last time you got really mad at work. What happened?’ A job seeker told me he’d punched his boss, but not to worry—‘he deserved it.’ ”

—Brian Kaye, Control Risks

“I asked an interviewee to describe himself. He stated that he was athletic, liked video games, and had an interest in going to strip clubs.”

—Don Swan, TerpSys

“A woman reached into her briefcase to retrieve a spiral binder, and out came a pair of pantyhose hooked to the spiral.”

—Paul Hvidding,National Rural ElectricCooperative Association

Come Again?

“The applicant told me I looked older than I sounded on the phone.”

—Nancy T. Allen, Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

“A candidate asked one of our female consultants for a hug at the end of the interview.”

—Karyn Hentz,Weinberg Group

“A candidate FedExed a résumé to UPS.”

—David Smith,North Highland Company

“Years ago when I worked at a different association, a young woman applying for an editorial-assistant job was being interviewed by the CEO and couldn’t resist correcting his grammar. She didn’t get the job.”

—Joyce Mitchell, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Hard to Swallow

“An interviewee was asked if she was thirsty. She said yes and proceeded to drink out of a glass on the interviewer’s desk, saying, ‘No need to get me a glass—this will do.’ ”

—Kyran Kennedy, Datatel

“This person came to interview for a secretarial position. She failed the typing test and asked if she could take it again. We agreed, and she asked if she could take a minute to ‘settle her nerves.’ She reached into her purse and pulled out a pint of Gilbey’s gin. She took a long drink and declared herself ready to try again.”

—Kelley Ahern, Parature

Could We Start Over?

“An applicant asked where the restroom was. In a rush, he went through the wrong door and ended up in the stairwell. The door locked, and he couldn’t get back in. He walked all the way down to the garage and waited for a car to come in before he could get out. It was about 25 minutes before he got back to his interview.”

—Brenda Smith-Epps, American Physical Therapy Association

“When I was 21, I asked my interviewer when she was due. She wasn’t pregnant. Needless to say, I was not offered the job.”

—Stuart Ruff, Association of American Medical Colleges

“I mentioned to an interviewer that I liked association work because it was altruistic and not like selling Cheerios. He was a volunteer leader who worked for General Mills.”

—Chuck Martin, American Physical Therapy Association

Make Yourself at Home

“A 48-year-old applicant’s mother attended the interview with him.”

—C.J. Tirone,Home Builders Institute

“I was interviewing an individual who asked if it would be permissible to work from home so she could take an afternoon nap every day.”

—Keith Albright,Home Builders Institute

Check Out These References

“A job candidate was leaving an interview and found his current boss waiting for the next interview.”

—Melanie Knutsen, Mitre

“We had a young lady interview for an executive-assistant position. In asking about her references, we inquired if we could check with her current boss. She said, ‘Yes, he knows that I’m looking because his wife told him he had to get rid of me. He should give me a great reference because we’ve been sleeping together for two years.’ ”

—Kelley Ahern, Parature 

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.