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 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


    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.”



    Cared about his hygiene too much.

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



    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.”



    Has a problem with authority.

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



    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.” 


    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.”



    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.”



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    Your Comments

    • Dave

      I had a gentleman interview with me for a position at my company. The guy recently had surgery that removed his leg. You could tell he still wasn’t comfortable with his situation. Anyways, his main pitch to me was that if I hired him I would get a tax credit from the government for hiring someone who was disabled. Never once talked about how he would be a good employee or any accomplishments he had made, only that I would get a tax credit.

      Talk about an uncomfortable 20 minutes….

      • Steve Krauss

        I hired a guy who had recently lost a leg in an accident

      • Steve Krauss

        I hired a guy who had recently lost a leg in an accident (for a construction job no less) – clients have tried to hire him over the last 15 years – he has been so thankful for the job he has never considered leaving. they have called me in amazement. Great guy! Also – I had no idea there was a tax credit.

    • BigMark

      Back in the days before the Govt. took responsibility for our every personal foible, We found a job because we had to…if we wanted to eat and pay the rent. (That would be called self reliance-self responsibility….)
      The job may not have been what we wanted, but we had to start someplace.
      So, yes I’m over 65, but you have no idea what it feels like to be self sufficient and employed because it was YOUR idea and YOUR efforts that paid off.
      Living in your parents basement until your 40 was not an option where I came from.

    • Eric Van Bezooijen

      “A guy once talked during the interview about how an affair cost him a previous job.” – That was George Costanza.

    • conrad

      Why don’t you get a degree in engineering, mathematics, health care as in nursing. If you have a degree in English, political science, history, economics (Unless Harvard) graduate… can’t have a job for a long period of time. Just go to the Army.

    • Florida

      stupid applicants or stupid HR interviewers? …i worked for a woman who had ALL these credentials and supposed history of success and was a can’t miss selection to cultivate and grow a 5 million dollar truck brokerage into a 100 million dollar brokerage… she interviewed a friend of mine on my personal recommendation for a sales/admin position… i told her the guy was a natural… we are in the trucking industry mind you… she nitpicked (she has OCD) about the way he dressed and the way he talked about a particular former job of his and he slouched in his chair and what not… needless to say she did not hire him… he is now the #2 salesman (nationally) in a 300 million dollar company and headed for stardom in same company and she is currently looking for work… EPIC FAIL! …companies should be a little more wary of their own HR people and a little less critical of the people they are interviewing!!!

    • CoCoLatte700

      It’s good to refresh your resume, put a bullet list of skills before your work experience, and, unless you have a CV, keep your resume to one page and include work experience for the past 10 years — unless you’ve been at one job for longer than that. Sometimes people make their resume 10pt or 9pt font in order to include everything they ever did on one page. No one wants to squint to read all of that. Be powerful, clear and typo free in the first 3 inches of the page and clear and succinct in your job responsibilities. You can explain in detail once you get the interview. It is a well-known fact that American corporations have been discriminating against hiring people over 50 who were laid off during the recession as well as the long-term unemployed. Go back to school and learn something in a field that IS hiring that you also think you would enjoy doing.


      There are jobs in Eastern South Dakota if you are wanting to relocate. We have a very nice 2 week summer followed by 7 months of bitter hard winter. We don’t have a state income tax and local sales taxes range from 5%-7% on most sales. Hotels are higher for the bed and breakfast tax. Property tax is about $1200 a year for a $100,000 house with gets you a very nice house here. Our unemployment rate is around 3%. We have plenty of “Help Wanted” signs and nobody wanting to fill the jobs.

      • Wixell Bickford

        South Dakota – is that a city, state, or one of those territories like Puerto RIco or the Virgin Islands? The reason no one wants to fill those Help Wanted sign jobs is because they’re menial jobs that nobody wants to do. It’s also the reason why large numbers of people live on the coasts (the Red/Blue map we see every election year) – the jobs are typically high-paying and are targeted at motivated people who have prepared for a career – not a job that involves responding to a sign.

    • Sandy0

      critique of HR slides:

      Slides at the end were funny. The first few sounded honest as people pitifully Doing Anything to get a job while the interviewer was Arrogant, as if riding on a wave of ego because he/she actually Had a job to offer and the interviewee should kiss his toes!

      Get Over Yourselves, you early-on Interviewers, it’s mean and cruel world out there if you are jobless. I am not, but I do read about people who are looking and they need desperately for someone to treat them with respect and dignity as required for all people. ALL PEOPLE DESERVE THAT; you are NOT King or Queen of the Mountain. You are an employee.

    • OneManITDept

      Here are some of the dumbest interviewers I have ever seen:

      Knew nothing about the department they manage

      Knew nothing about how their own company processes information for distribution

      Wanted to know if we could do the interview in the Bar downstairs so he could unwind with a drink

      Thought I was someone else

      Thought IT and IS were the same thing

      Didn’t understand how their company made money

      Was “always” unclear on Service VS Product

      Didn’t know what state she was in

      In an email she was very proud of her “Collidge” education and required everyone else to have one. When I pointed out that it was spelled incorrectly she laughed and asked me how someone who thinks so highly of themselves doesn’t know the d is silent.

      Wasn’t sure what an offer letter was and wanted to know what it was.

      Couldn’t tell the difference between a mouse and keyboard because “who can keep track of all of that output stuff anyways?”

      Used an HR person with no technical expertise to interview a technical person.

      Companies with morons like the listed above are places to stay away from at all costs. Nothing worse than an employer who is so stupid they promote the incompetent and reward the stupid.

      • Wixell Bickford

        I’m pretty sure I know who the moron is in any job hunting scenario involving you.

        • OneManITDept

          Yeah…because all of these people acting like idiots and being horrendously unprepared for an interview is somehow my fault. Thank you for pointing this out.

          See a little something in the above statement that made dug at you hm….? Hit a little too close to home? Or are you lonely and needing some place to troll?

          Why don’t you go back to all of your posts about hollywood gossip column and leave the adults to talk instead of whining and trolling everywhere. Or will nobody talk to you in Anaheim anymore?

    • enjoylifenowlady

      Aw, come on. The guys who got the billboard, singing telegram and whatever were
      just trying to stand out. The interviewer should have had a laugh and appreciated their cleverness. Have fun, folks!!