9 of the more ridiculous things job applicants have done in interviews

Hiring managers expose how candidates have crashed and burned their way out of a job through spectacular fashion choices and poorly timed self-disclosures.

Photo: William Warby via Flickr

If you think your job interview went badly, you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. A new CareerBuilder survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers found that they have witnessed candidates crash and burn their way out of a job through spectacular fashion choices and poorly timed self-disclosures.

The top deal-breaking action you can do as a job candidate should be obvious: 71% percent of managers said that getting caught in a lie will cost a candidate the job. Answering a phone call or text, appearing arrogant, showing a lack of accountability, swearing, and dressing inappropriately were also listed as deal-breakers by a majority of HR professionals.

The moral of the story is that when you go off script, you may stand out during a job interview — and not in a good way.

Darth Vader, pumpkins and drugs

The hiring managers that participated in the survey highlighted the wildest things they saw from different candidates:

  • Did not have the skills to do the job and stated, ‘Fake it until you make it’ as his personal philosophy.
  • Asked for a cocktail.
  • Asked to taste the interviewer’s coffee.
  • Called a government job ‘something government-y.’
  • Came to interview wearing slippers.
  • Wore a Darth Vader outfit to the interview.
  • Offered interviewer pumpkins and said they transfer good energy.
  • Pulled out a bag of drugs with his keys.
  • Broke out in song in the middle of the interview.

Yikes! Each of these stories demonstrates deal-breaking actions and show a lack of professionalism and social etiquette. Above all, they show a lack of interview preparation and readiness for the job, which human resources professionals say is a big interview blunder. As HR expert Michael Travis has found, it’s the most common mistake he’s seen in his decades of experience as a recruiter.

“There’s no excuse for a lack of preparation. It’s always obvious to the interviewer, and makes the candidate come off as disinterested or just lazy,” Travis cautioned job candidates. “Do your homework. Before arriving at the interview learn everything you can about the company and the hiring manager.”

How to recover from job interview disaster

Unfortunately, you don’t get to make a first impression twice. But if you watch yourself slip up and say something absurd, not all hope is lost. There are survivor stories of job candidates who act ridiculous and still land the job. Take the story of the employee who used an unrelated comment about a toy cow to his advantage. On Quora, Richard Waddington explained that his daughter had given him a plastic cow from a barnyard play “for good luck” on the day of his stressful job interview.

The job interview with a high-level executive was near to ending when the VP of human resources brought up a concern:

“I’ve heard good things from the interview team, but I do have one concern … You look like a pretty straight-laced guy, and, well, things get a little crazy here from time to time. How do I know you’ll fit in?” Waddington remembers the HR professional saying. “Without thinking I blurted out, ‘I have a cow in my pocket!’ There was a moment of very awkward silence, and I was convinced I’d just blown it, but I found the cow, and set it on the table. Another second or two went by before she burst out laughing. I got the job.”

It’s a lesson on how to steer back an interview after it goes off course. If you do say something outlandish, make it relevant, or at the very least, back up your claim. Give proof of the cow in your pocket.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.