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
  • Loading

    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

    POPULAR RIGHT NOW

    Your Comments

    • megan

      I wonder how these applicants expected to get the job.

    • doctor_spaceman

      Did the applicant have the chinese food ordered for himself, or was it delivered after the interview? I wouldn’t hire someone BECAUSE they did that, but I’d be pumped to get free lunch.

    • JellyBean

      Bunch of mean ugly folks posting here.

      • Wixell Bickford

        Especially you.

    • Old Navy

      I am over 65 so some of you might ignore this, but I was making a good six figure salary before I retired. Here are some tips for you folks looking for work:
      1. Make a list of the companies that you would like to work for. Prioritize the list and start at the bottom working up. By the time you get to the companies that you are interested in you have a lot of information about the industry, are comfortable in the interview process and have made your mistakes with firms you don’t care about
      2. At the end of the interview ask if there is anything about your qualifications that the interviewer might feel might hurt your chances of selection. This gives you a chance to re visit and strengthen your position
      3. If the interview is not positive and they say know it doesn’t hurt to ask that based upon what they know about you, if they know of any one that might be interested

      • papa11

        If you are over 65, consider it ignored. Things are handled differently now Bro.

    • bodica

      One of the greatest works in ‘English’ literature is 80 pages long with zero punctuation. So would the anal retentive grammar fascists ‘get over’ themselves! Yes, that’s an interrogative, but it’s rhetorical, hence the exclamation rather than the question mark. Happy now! Jeepers!

      • Using_common_sense

        And just what would that particular piece be?

        Also, what exactly is your point in this little fit you’re having? Do you mean to suggest that grammar/spelling/punctuation errors in a resume should be overlooked?

    • jsf12

      Long ago, I got resumes from three different graduates of a nearby university on the same day and each of those resumes included the claim “I good English speak”. I’m pretty sure they were all lying and all had the same friend (that they thought spoke English) help them write resumes.

      • papa11

        Then they didn’t read it over! LOL Which one did you hire?

        • jsf12

          I made the mistake of showing my boss (we were friends and I thought he would find it funny) but he focused on the very impressive (and relevant to our open position) pre college work experience they each had at three different companies in Taiwan. He didn’t trust my deduction that all the work experience was as dishonest as the “I good English speak”. So we brought one of them in for a (waste of my time) interview. Both the work experience and the English were lies. Her English was significantly worse than that of the friend who must have helped her with the resume.
          No, we did not hire any of them. I’m not great at understanding accents over a phone, so my boss had to make the phone calls and the other two couldn’t speak English well enough for him to invite them in to talk to me.

    • dconklin

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

      Maybe the boss deserved it? Decades after I left one company I figured out that the person ripping off my unit was my boss!

      • MouseNoMore

        So right! That’s one response where I would have definitely wanted to hear the rest of the story. :)

      • Using_common_sense

        That does not justify work place violence. Nor does it justify saying something so stupid at a job interview.

        • dconklin

          We’ll see how you react when you loss your job because your boss ripped the place off while you were out.

          • Using_common_sense

            I wouldn’t react with violence. And even if I were to make such a foolish mistake, I certainly would not discuss it at an interview for my next job.

            “After being there for 5 years the environment had changed. My new supervisor and I had very different ideas about what was best for the company, and after sticking with it for several months I realized the best way to gain personal fulfillment with my work and allow the company to continue to progress the way it wanted to, was to seek out a change.

            It’s that easy.

            • dconklin

              >even if I were to make such a foolish mistake, I certainly would not discuss it at an interview for my next job.

              That;s why it is on the list–pay attention.

              >It’s that easy.

              You had to think that out ahead of time. Most people react–especially when the boss has sabotaged one’s career.

        • papa11

          Use some common sense!

    • dconklin

      QUOTE: “Cared about his hygiene too much.
      “I once had a person clip her fingernails while we were speaking.””

      So, the interviewee was a he/she?

      • http://www.karlavonbohn.webs.com/ Damon Von Bohn

        lol that name is considered rude. A more appropriate name could be androgenous, transmasculine, transfeminine, transgender…

        • dconklin

          You completely missed the point which was simple grammar. It was either “his” or “her”–it couldn’t be both. Most likely the latter.

          • http://www.karlavonbohn.webs.com/ Damon Von Bohn

            did you mean for the question to say “So was the interviewee a he or a she?” or did you mean to ask “So was the interviewee a he-she?”

            • dconklin

              Playing on the grammatical error with a colorful term.

            • http://www.karlavonbohn.webs.com/ Damon Von Bohn

              a colorful term…

            • dconklin

              a short rhyme based on the spelling of the two words.

      • papa11

        yes

    • LateNightLarry

      I remember one guy who applied for a job as a custodian at the Post Office where I worked… He gave his last employer as FPI, Terminal Island, CA. (FPI – Federal Prison Industries) His reason for leaving was “end of sentence”… he had just gotten out of prison. He did NOT get the job; the post office had a little problem with his most recent work history.

      • VCT_Retired_Army

        But what else was he supposed to do? Or do you believe that anyone who does time should never be hired by anyone for the rest of their life?

      • dolomite363

        Hardy har har Larry, thats a good one. He should’ve lied on his resume, or just stayed home and unemployed…maybe he can rob your wallet to feed his family.

        • LateNightLarry

          dolomite363… The Post Office is part of the Federal Government… and does a full background check, including criminal convictions through the FBI… plus a drug screen before anyone is considered for employment. If someone has served time in a Federal prison such as Terminal Island, they were convicted in a Federal court…

          • DoubleStandards

            And you wonder why people end up right back in prison…So what if he’s a convicted felon? When people like you think it’s funny convicts are trying hard and desperately looking for a job to earn legally, and take it as your joke of the day, all it does is turn them back to the career they know best, robbing people like you.

            • LateNightLarry

              Double Standards… The policy for this decision came from USPS HQ; we just had to implement it locally. If I had tried to hire him, the district office would have overruled me in any case. The Post Office doesn’t have a ban on EVER hiring people convicted of crimes… Whether or not someone can be hired depends on the type of crime, and when the crime occurred. For example, someone convicted of joyriding (grand theft auto) as a teenager, and they are now forty years old with a clean record since could be hired… someone convicted of embezzlement a couple of years ago probably would never be hired because embezzlement is a crime of moral turpitude.

      • Steve Krauss

        I have an employee I hired on work release. 10 years later he is one of the best around. I doubt he will ever leave. One of the worst problems is turnover. When you find the right person and give them an opportunity no one else would they excel and are loyal.
        Of course I have chosen the wrong ones too. the one lesson I have learned is cut them quick when you are wrong. It’s much better to move on after 3 or 4 weeks than to keep hoping for better. It never gets any better.

    • Mike Noster

      I had a customer skate board into my office for his interview. It was a very short interview.

      • Wixell Bickford

        Awesome, so I be he’s your #1 employee.