4 Interview Stories That Are Truly Weird

Sometimes interviews can turn weird. We don’t mean in the sense of interviewers taking phone calls during the conversation or of questions so out of left field it’s hard to figure out their purpose. We mean weird in the sense of WTF.

Weird InterviewQuora hosted a thread of some truly bizarre interview stories, which Business Insider helpfully sorted through to find the really interesting tech episodes. Among our favorites:

One woman, Nina Kumar, was having lunch at Amazon when her interviewer spread out his chips on her resume. She doesn’t say whether she got the job, but it had to be a humbling experience.

Then there was Dan Morrill, who listened to his host expound on how the company conducted a mass firing every six months, that survivors rarely lasted more than two years, and that he shouldn’t plan on getting too comfortable. We imagine that employer finds recruitment sort of challenging.

When he applied for a technical engineering job, Kee Nethery went through a two-day, two-night marathon of late drinking and clubbing, followed by long days of meetings and drinking lunches. “I had never had so much great food, great drinks, lack of sleep and being ‘on’ within one 48 hour period. It took days to recover,” he wrote. Turns out the company wanted to see how he did in business-social situations, since a fair amount of customer entertainment was involved in the job. Plus, it entailed lots of pressured trouble-shooting for clients, and the company needed a sense of how “reasonable and coherent” he could be when under stress without much sleep. He got the job.

Finally, there’s Rupert Baines. He was flown to California from Boston to interview with a “significant tech firm.” Over the course of the day he met with his prospective boss and a range of others. Everything was going along swimmingly until the time came to meet the CEO. The hour came and went: Rupert waited from his mid-afternoon appointment time until well into the evening. As they finally got to talking, an alert chimed and the CEO explained that it meant Rupert had missed his flight. An exercise in power and self-importance? Obviously. It was a fairly expensive one, too, since the company paid for Rupert’s hotel, dinner, and re-booked ticket. The kicker came when Rupert decided not to take the job. He received a shouting email from the CEO:  “I HAVE A LIST OF THE TEN STUPIDEST PEOPLE IN AMERICA. YOU ARE NOW ON THAT LIST. YOU IDIOT.”

Moral of the story: Good call, Rupert.

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27 Responses to “4 Interview Stories That Are Truly Weird”

  1. jgalt2000

    > Then there was Dan Morrill, who listened to his host expound on how the company conducted a mass firing every six months, that survivors rarely lasted more than two years, and that he shouldn’t plan on getting too comfortable.<

    Must have been interviewing at IBM…. Oh, wait, they said every 6 months; at IBM that would be every ***3*** months.

  2. Amazing! Then there is Microsoft who gives out verbal job offers but of course, many of us have to get a release letter from the company where we are – which in turn forces you to give notice. Because who wants you sitting on their payroll while you look for a job? Then two weeks later Microsoft backs out. Truly lack of professionalism, folks. And lesson learned…only in writing.

    • Patrick

      I interviewed three times for information security positions at Microsoft in Redmond. I accepted the interviews, with no intention of ever working there. I spent the interviews pointedly insulting the naivete of MS’s security practices. I was offered a job all three times. In the third interview, I told them I didn’t know which would look worse on the resume of an information security practitioner: having worked at Microsoft or being recently released from prison.

      Apparently playing to the interviewer’s own sense self loathing can be confused for empathy.

  3. Darrell H

    “I HAVE A LIST OF THE TEN STUPIDEST PEOPLE IN AMERICA. YOU ARE NOW ON THAT LIST. YOU IDIOT.”

    If I had received that email, I would have replied back, “then you must be #1 on that list”. I probably also would have blasted that email on social media or somehow making sure the board of directors of that company aware of that email. It never ceases to amaze me how people like this can get into “leadership” positions.

  4. Richard Janus

    Incredible. I thought it was my bad luck that I’ve run into bad interviews for tech positions. Over the years I’ve:

    – been told up front that at the completion of my interview the company would decide whether they would hire me or opt to outsource the position
    – had the interviewer turn my resume over and use it as scratch paper to draw org charts, diagrams, etc. illustrating what they were saying
    – been interviewed for a completely different tech position. The company had posted an ad for a higher-level position that did not actually exist, but was really looking for top talent to fill its entry-level positions (it figured there would be good folks desperate to get any job, so they thought a bait-and-switch ad would work.)
    – been in a multiple-person interview, meaning that myself and the other candidate begin considered were interviewed together in the same room at the same time being asked the questions in front of each other and so that each of us could hear the other candidate’s answers.

    I turned down offers for two of the positions and made it clear that I was not interested in even entertaining an offer for the other two.

    With the attitude of many companies today toward their new and existing tech employees, it’s amazing that there hasn’t been a high-tech labor revolt.

  5. I once had an insurance company call me out of the blue, tell me they’d found my resume and invite me to an interview – where they told me I wasn’t qualified for the job they asked me to interview for.

    I had a cell phone company invite me to an interview, pay for the flight and rental car, and then the manager never showed up in the office for the interview the entire day.

  6. Uphill Weezer

    Humbling experience? Interviewer intentionally spilling chips on her resume- hello… That’s nothing more than a power play, passive aggressive move. Another example of a weird SOB in a position of authority getting a rise from their petty power- nothing more- the interviewer should be thankful I wasn’t the interviewee…

  7. Kathy Kennedy

    I once interviewed for a QA position at a company that provided mental health services – they had everyone show up at the same time, we all sat in a room and filled out paperwork, then they took each of us separately and interviewed us. Imagine sitting in a room looking at your competition (although it happens in the entertainment industry frequently, it is very disconcerting in a business environment!).
    To top it off, they arrived late to start the interviews.
    I was offered the job and took it only because I was unemployed at the time. It was the worst job I have ever held, and one of the shortest as well. I quickly left – and chose unemployment over working for a mental health professionals who needed their own services.
    People have to remember that during the interview process is THE BEST you will ever be treated at a company. If you are treated poorly during an interview, run for the hills!
    I will never be interested in a position with a mental health practice again because of the mental games they played with me at that agency. Me, I will stick to a pharmaceutical/medical device career, if possible!

    • Chris A.

      Kathy –

      You cite the most important point: During the interview process, you will be treated the best you can expect to be treated by a firm.

      Years ago, I interviewed with a firm who kept me waiting for over an hour before I told the receptionist that I had another appointment. Only then, did the person come out and interview me. Of course, I declined the offer – and the firm was out of business shortly afterwards.

      With this being said, one can get a good read on a lot of firms by how well they treat their applicants. If they are polite, and responsive to people who are not in the running for positions, one can imagine how they will treat the people they really want….

      Chris

  8. Mark Johnson

    The interview was held in a conference room, with 4 interviewers, each armed with my resume. The youngest (maybe 25) repeated items from my resume of things I had designed, then said “I think you are a liar”. I asked if the other interviewers were interested in taking the time required for me to address this accusation. They said yes. I used a whiteboard and laid out my design for one of the major items in some detail. Then I said I had one in a box in my car. It had my name on it, since I founded the company, and it was partly named after me (Datamark).
    I then suggested that they take a good course in interviewing, because two things are happening.
    While you are evaluating me to decide if I am qualified for your position and a good fit, I am evaluating you to decide if I really want to work with you. In this case, the first activity is not important, because I have decided I don’t want to work with such inexperienced egotistical jerks. I picked up my folder and left. The HR director hurried after me as I was leaving, trying to apologize. I suggested he also needed more education, or he would keep hiring idiots.

  9. I interviewed a long time ago for what was then Hughes in Tucson. The arrogant interviewer asked if my degree, from a respected private engineering college in NY, was from a four year college.

  10. I went to several interviews after the 2008 crash where I thought I did really well, only to be told that they gave the position to an internal candidate. I’m sure that was their intention all along, but they had to go through the motions of interviewing outside candidates. A complete waste of my time.

  11. Patrick

    My favorite interview question is: “Why do you want to work here?” My answer is always: “I don’t know yet if I do. That’s why I’m interviewing your company.”

    I went to one interview that was conducted in “firing squad mode” with 10 people all firing questions. They all were busily typing on laptop computers and not making any eye contact. I asked if I too could have a laptop since that seemed to be their way of interpersonal interaction.

    • Chris A.

      Patrick –

      I love your response…. I’ll have to use it if I’m interviewed by a smaller firm. (Large firms wouldn’t appreciate the comeback, as they expect you to think they are great….)

      Chris

  12. Unca Alby

    The only thing about Rubert is, it’s never a good idea to burn your bridges. You never know when you’ll cross swords with that CEO again, either as a customer, a vendor, or a competitor.

    • Darrell H

      The only thing Rupert did was not accept a position at a company where the CEO himself would treat him poorly on the interview. He had Rupert waiting all day, and he ended up missing his flight. Not a very good impression of the company or CEO. Rupert had every right to turn down this job offer. Then this childish, immature CEO sends him an email like that, just confirming that Rupert made the right decision.

      So I don’t understand your comment about burning bridges.

  13. Who else would have replied to the email, “I’m sorry you surround yourself with so many stupid people,” all the while typing your response knowing that people surround themselves with like individuals?

  14. Pad Ras

    Just to submit the resume to the client consulting companies wants to check the managerial references. Is this fair?
    My resume is shortlisted by the recruiter and given to account manager, When recruiter asked me about the references I told him that I will give all the info of my manager but you can check my reference only after the client interview. He agreed. Recruiter told that account manager wants to talk to me before submitting the resume. Just to call me and talk to me for 5min account manger took 3 days. Because she is busy with work. OK understandable.
    When she talked to me she liked my technical skills and background and want’s to submit resume to the client. Last thing she asked is reference. I told her the same what I told to the recruiter ‘ I will give all the info of my manager but you can check my reference only after the client interview’. She told that it is their company policy.
    I explained softly and smoothly that my previous manger is also busy and she can’t take the calls. I can’t bother her all the time just to submit resume to the client.
    She raised voice and asked me that your manager can’t spare 5min for you?
    I told only one answer ‘She is my previous boss, I’ts not the part of her job. Only it’s a favor she is doing for me. I can ask her when it’s necessary. What you are doing is part of your job. It took 3 day’s for you to talk to me for 5min. How can you expect other people to do a favor all the time officially.
    If directors and manager start giving references to all the previous consultant’s who worked for them to all the consulting companies consultants are applying for, it will take at least 1 to 2 hrs of their working hours just to give references for previous consultants. Is this really going to happen?
    This is the market now.

  15. BlownAwayDorthy

    My experience to share was more of a positive one. There was an ad in the paper, this was in the mid-80s BTW, looking for someone with electronics experience to assist with creating new gaming boards. I showed up for the interview and after about 20 minutes realized this was not the correct company. It was located in an industrial park and I walked in the wrong door. So I admitted to the interviewer my mistake, and she said she thought it was odd I walked in expecting an interview. But then she mentioned they had a position open for designing circuit boards for plasma power supplies, I listened, and accepted their job offer. Stayed there for 7 years. The gaming boards may have been interesting, but I made a lot of long term friends from that job. Bonus.

  16. The IT director at a financial institution made an offer at the interview, but the CEO had to sign off. He never did because I had law enforcement credentials on my resume and he was money laundering.

    As the HR assistant escorted me from the major utility, she acknowledged the executive portraits (Mulholland et al) as “the old white guys who founded this company”. I replied “I know. I’ve been a shareholder for 20 years”. I didn’t get the job.