Funny Interviews: Meet the Dumbest Job Applicants

Human resource pros share the worst things they've seen, from real candidates trying to get hired. Here's what not to do.


Also published in Reader's Digest Magazine April 2014
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    Took the edge off...with a drink.

    "I swear this is true: Someone threw his beer can in the outside trash can before coming into the reception area."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Hey: TMI, people.

    "A guy once talked during the interview about how an affair cost him a previous job."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Read the directions wrong.

    "We ask prospective job applicants at our business to fill out a questionnaire. For the line 'Choose one word to summarize your strongest professional attribute,' one woman wrote, 'I'm very good at following instructions.'"

    Anonymous HR professional

    Grossed out the interviewer.

    "Someone once blew her nose and lined up the used tissues on the table in front of her."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Misunderstood the work.

    "An individual applied for a customer-service job, and when asked what he might not like about the job, he said, 'Dealing with people.'"

    Source: Robert Half Technology

    Brought a sidekick. Who wasn't patient.

    "Once an applicant's friend came in and asked, 'How much longer?'"

    Anonymous HR professional

    Didn't bother with research.

    "It's amazing when people come in for an interview and say, 'Can you tell me about your business?' Seriously, people. There’s an Internet. Look it up."

    HR professional in New York City

    Listed all experiences...relevant or not.

    "I had somebody list their prison time as a job. And an exotic dancer who called herself a 'customer service representative.'"

    Sharlyn Lauby, human resources consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Came hungry.

    "I had someone eat all the candy from the candy bowl while trying to answer questions."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Called in an understudy.

    "The candidate sent his sister to interview in his place."

    Source: Robert Half Technology

    Gave more than a handshake.

    "Someone applying for a job hugged me at the end of the interview."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Ordered in lunch.

    "Applicant delivered prepaid Chinese food, including a fortune cookie with his name and phone."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Spammed a prospective employer.

    "Applicant put up posters of himself in the company parking lot."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Wore the wrong outfit.

    "The candidate arrived in a catsuit."

    Source: Robert Half Technology

    Got too creative.

    "Applicant announced his candidacy with a singing telegram."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Thought he was larger than life.

    "Applicant rented a billboard, which the hiring manager could see from his office, listing his qualifications."

    Anonymous HR professional

    Shared his "happy" hours.

    "Candidate specified that his availability was limited because Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was 'drinking time.'"

    Anonymous HR professional

    Tried to justify the crime.

    "Candidate explained an arrest by stating, 'We stole a pig, but it was a really small pig.'"

    Anonymous HR professional

    Forgot to proofread the cover letter.

    "Advertising is a tough business. Which may be why one prospective adman wrote a cover letter boasting, 'I am getting to my goal, slowly but surly.'"

    Anonymous HR professional

    Was just weird.

    "A job applicant came in for an interview with a cockatoo on his shoulder."

    Source: Robert Half Technology

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Cared about his appearance too much.

    “A guy who forgot dark socks to wear with his suit colored in his ankles with a black felt-tip marker.”

    Source: Washingtonian.com

    Hemera/Thinkstock

    Cared about his hygiene too much.

    “I once had a person clip her fingernails while we were speaking.”

    Source: Washingtonian.com

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Had other business to conduct.

    “I was interviewing someone who took a cell-phone call and asked me to leave my office while they talked.”

    Source: Washingtonian.com

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Has a problem with authority.

    “The candidate told the interviewer he was fired from his last job for beating up his boss.”

    Source: Careerbuilder.com


    iStock/Thinkstock

    He was a fugitive.

    “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.” 

    Source: Washingtonian.com

    Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

    Something didn't add up.

    “An applicant said she was a ‘people person,’ not a ‘numbers person,’ in her interview for an accounting position.”

    Source: Careerbuilder.com

    iStock/Thinkstock

    Got a little too comfortable.

    “A candidate complained that she was hot. She then said ‘Excuse me’ and removed her socks. After placing them on the desk, she continued as if everything was normal.”

    Source: Washingtonian.com

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    Your Comments

    • Wzystko Cokham

      guy showed up in a Tux, for an ambulance drivers job! I asked my friend, “Did you Hire Him? I mean at least he can dress…..”

    • The Big Bang Entity

      I had someone come to me for a job that wasn’t available at the moment. I politely explained that to her after giving her a tour of the building, and wished her luck on her job search. Because she knew someone who knew me, she also knew what kind of car I owned and keyed it before she left the parking lot. I can only imagine the problems she would have been if I did hire her. I never found out who she was because I didn’t have her fill out an application, and the person who referred her to me is playing stupid about her.

    • professional man

      It would be equally interesting to hear how stupid the HR morons behave when considering prospective hires, instead of always flogging job seekers. I’ve had circumstances where interviewers didn’t read my resume, or weren’t ready for my questions about a job. This was particularly so with state government jobs. Or how about the unemployment office, running the gauntlet of goons there, people who direct you to do things without having a clue as to what they are telling you to do. Every single employment rep for a state should have to conduct a job search — actually procuring a job for themselves — annually just to understand the job market and what it takes to get a job. Most of them are entrenched civil servants who haven’t job hunted for years.

    • Giuseppe

      There is a lot of discussion on here about looks and using looks to get a job. To anyone that takes offense to being told to use your looks to land a job you might want to rethink that. Hopefully everyone looks their very best when going to an interview. We wear nice clothes so we look our best. We also look our best to others when we smile, when we are personable and polite. Get your hair done or get a hair cut because you want to look your best. Don’t be offended that someone says use your looks to help land the job. It isn’t sexist, it’s just the way it is. You surely wont get the job if you go in with bed head, a dirty shirt or a wrinkled dress. So yeah, suck it up and use your looks.

    • wolfboy54

      The problem is often HR or whoever is hiring. The have preconceived notions about what traits are desirable/undesirable. I’ve seen the same jobs advertised over and over because they keep hiring the wrong people.