Blanking on the interviewer’s name or forgetting to bring copies of your résumé may not endear you to a prospective employer, but at least you can take heart that your error wasn’t so horrible that it will be remembered for years to come.
Not all interviewees are that lucky.
Here are five tales of monumental moments of job-interview awkwardness as told by the employers who experienced them:
1. Let me Finish this Game
While most candidates are ready to move mountains to please an interviewer, some are not so willing to accommodate. Ann M. Larson, managing partner for The Interview Experience, flew from New York to Los Angeles to conduct an interview, only to have the applicant ask her to stand there and wait in the hotel lobby so that she could finish the game of solitaire she was playing since it looked like she was going to win.
“I politely told her that I had a very busy agenda and that I didn't really have the time to watch her play a card game,” Larson says. “The interview was short and awkward. I remember flying home thinking, ‘Thanks for taking a day of my life that I'll never get back.’ ”
2. Never Let Them See You (or Your Hair) Sweat
Executive recruiter and career counselor Bruce Hurwitz was delighted to find an applicant that seemed perfect for one of his clients. The fact that the man was bald wasn’t an issue, until he showed up for the interview having used “hair-in-a-can” to paint his head black.
“It was a warm day,” Hurwitz remembers. “As the interview progressed, he started to perspire. The paint started to run down his forehead -- not a lot, maybe a quarter of an inch. I did not laugh even though I thought I was going to do myself personal injury by keeping it in!”
At interview’s end, Hurwitz told the man he wanted to submit him to the client but couldn’t because of his “hair.”
The man smiled and said, “You mean my toupee?”
Hurwitz mustered, “Yes. Promise me you won’t wear it, and I’ll submit you.”
And all ended well.
3. Putting Your Assets on Display
Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Intern Sushi, was none too happy when she entered the lobby to greet an interviewee and discovered the young lady was wearing a mini-skirt and an extremely transparent shirt.
Senderoff gave her an appalled look.
“She clearly noticed my disgust and apologized profusely as she thought she was interviewing with a guy because my male assistant was scheduling the interview time with her," she recalls. "Instead of focusing on her intelligence or the skills she could bring to the table, she thought a push-up lace bra would seal the deal."
“It didn't," Senderoff says.
4. Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall . . .
Before interviewing a college student who was applying for an internship, Kelsey Meyer, president of Digital Talent Agents, did a quick Google search of the applicant’s name to see if there were any interesting articles about him from his on-campus activities.
Instead, she ended up viewing a Twitter profile photo of the applicant surrounded by some 50 beers. During the interview, Meyer decided to bring it up to see how he’d respond.
“His response was extremely awkward,” Meyer says. “He went on a 10-minute tirade about how interviewers shouldn't ‘snoop’ his ‘private’ social networks. (His account wasn’t protected.) My takeaway from this experience was that if you assume someone isn't going to be a good fit, don't push them to make them lash out even more.”
5. I Don’t Need to Know EVERYTHING about You
While many interviews have been disrupted by a cell phone a candidate forgot to turn off, this one takes the word “interruption” to a whole new level:
“A girl I interviewed for the position of sales rep got a call from her boyfriend,” says Joshua Weiss, CEO of TeliApp Corporation. The content of the call had to do with an unprotected intimate encounter the night before, he says.“How do I know this?” Weiss explains. “Because she took the call during the interview and had a screaming match with her phone and boyfriend right in front me. Needless to say, she didn't get the job.”