Hiring managers share their Top 5 uncomfortable interview moments

If you’ve had an embarrassing, difficult, or just downright awful interviewing experience with job candidates, then you are definitely not alone. 

The process can be a roller coaster. For some candidates, the interview will run smoothly. But for others, it can be something that you’ll never forget. 

For nearly 10 years, I interviewed candidates for a variety of positions. I’ve spoken with a lot of different recruiters and hiring managers, and you might laugh at some of the awkward and uncomfortable moments they’ve had when interviewing candidates. 

Here are my top 5 that I’ve heard.

1. The clove oil

I once interviewed a candidate who walked into the interview reeking of clove oil. In fact, the oil was so pungent that it could be easily smelled everywhere. Without knowing where the candidate was inside of the office building, one could retrace the steps he took from the front door to the conference room based purely on smell.

Naturally, this made the interview uncomfortable. We were forced to endure the sharp smell of clove oil throughout the interview, and needless to say, we didn’t ask any follow-up questions that would have extended the length of the interview, and this candidate did not get a callback. 

2. The tears

One recruiter told me that she interviewed a candidate who, in the middle of the interview, started to cry. When asked why they were crying, the candidate responded with “Because I’m never going to get this job.” When reassured by the hiring manager that they were doing fine, the candidate continued to insist that they are bombing the interview.

This candidate did not get a call, but not because they answered questions poorly during the interview. They did not get the job because they lacked the confidence and emotional control during one of their most important moments as a job-seeker. If they cannot handle the interview well, then they probably won’t be able to handle more stressful parts of the job, either. 

3. The “I don’t know why that’s on my resume” candidate

I interviewed a candidate who had a very well-laid-out resume. It was one of the better resumes that I had seen, in fact. And, they appeared to have most of the qualifications that we were looking for until I asked about one particular skill on their resume and wanted to know a bit more about their experience. 

Their response was one that I’ll never forget: “Oh, actually I have no idea why that’s on my resume”. Silence filled the room. The candidate did not try to explain. They let the room fall into an awkward silence as we mentally scrambled to find something to say in response to this. This put their entire resume into question. We felt like we could not trust this person. 

4. The candidate who didn’t read

A hiring manager told me a story of a candidate who didn’t read the job description very carefully. The candidate plainly told the interviewers that “I don’t travel” – referring to business travel. The problem? Travel was one of the primary responsibilities of the sales job. The ability to travel was cited several times as a requirement in the job description. 

Most experienced hiring managers instinctively know if the job candidate didn’t clearly read the job description. Sometimes, it’s not as clear-cut as this example, but it happens all the time. These interviews often end very quickly and, of course, the candidate never gets a call. 

5. The overly-confident job seeker

During an interview, most hiring managers ask a variety of questions aimed at getting to know the candidate a bit more on a personal level. A common question is, “What are some of your biggest weaknesses?” A hiring manager told me of a particularly over-confident answer to that question. 

The candidate said, “I have no weaknesses. I’m equally strong in all areas.

Though hiring managers respect confidence, they don’t respect arrogance, and this answer was a clear indication that the candidate was not a good fit for the organization. Interviewers are looking for a real and thoughtful answer when they ask this question.