Halloween horror stories: nightmare interview experiences

Halloween jack o lanterns, ghosts book of spells and cauldron

To celebrate Halloween, we’ve asked our recruiters to share their most horrifying interview or recruitment experiences – times when it went so badly wrong it was blood curdling…or at least extremely awkward! Drawing on their collective experience undergoing hundreds of interviews, our recruiters also treat you to their top tricks on how to ace your next interview – or at least avoid it turning to disaster.

Strap yourself in for a bone chilling, hair raising ride! 
*All names and details have been changed to protect identities.

#1

Interview horror story:

“Years ago when I was working in a manufacturing vertical, I conducted in-person interviews with all of my potential candidates. I interviewed a middle-aged gentleman for an IT role within a manufacturing company and he could not stop dissing his wife, complaining that he had to play the role of “mummy” at home and stating that it wasn’t his job to take care of his kids. I got through the interview with gritted teeth and rest assured he did not get the job.”

Advice:

“Understand that a job interview is just like a first date! You’re getting to know them and they’re getting to know you. You want to put your best foot forward and not go waving your red flags around! Also understand your target audience – connect on a personal level. People won’t remember what you said but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”

Lady offended and unimpressed with candidate during interview

#2

Recruitment horror story:

“A recruiter on my team placed a candidate at a local bank and he didn’t show up on his first day. He had seemed pretty keen on the job leading up to that point, so the ghosting seemed to come out of nowhere. I had connected with him on LinkedIn before all this happened, but fast forward a year and he sent me a DM saying hello. I replied, thinking he was looking for a job and said that I was no longer in recruitment. He said that’s ok and proceeded to ask me more personal questions and eventually a date.”

Advice:

“The lessons are simple: don’t ghost your recruiter and definitely don’t try to slide into their DM on LinkedIn!”

Lady hiding under desk at work from something she saw on her computer

#3

Interview horror story:

“I once set up an interview for a candidate, who then turned it down because he was camping. When I followed up to reschedule, he said he couldn’t go to the second interview as he was at the beach.”

Advice:

“Act like you want the job! If you’re not showing commitment from the beginning, the recruiter will likely pull the pin.”

Man relaxing on holiday at the beach on phone relaxing

#4

Interview horror story:

“As a job applicant, I once had to do a pre-recorded video interview. I was presented with a question which I was given two minutes to review, before answering to the camera. I panicked trying to think while I watched the time count down on the screen in front me. It reached zero and I was then confronted with my own video feed, over stamped with the clock once again counting down – this time from one minute. I fumbled my words and forgot most of the admittedly poorly gelled thoughts I’d managed to gather during my prep time. I was immediately confronted with the next question and another countdown, and so forth. When it finally ended, I was convinced that I was fraud, that I had no business working in a field which I’d been in for over a decade at this point.”

Advice:

“If you want to hire candidates with people skills, then use people in the interview process! It is important for employers to reflect candidly on how their interview and selection techniques are likely to bring out the best or worst in applicants. The interview’s structure and level of formality will inevitably suit some candidates better than others, but it also sets the tone for your organisation’s relationship with that individual and will directly affect whether they will accept an offer.”

Man in virtual interview answering questions with a countdown timer

#5

Applicant horror story:

“As a jobseeker, I was applying for a job and had my resume ready to send off. I left my desk unattended for a moment and my husband, always the practical joker, typed the word ‘nincompoop’ in the middle of my resume. I sent it off without seeing it and needless to say, didn’t get the job!”

Advice:

“Proofread, proofread, proofread! And don’t trust pranksters to be left alone with your resume!”

Colleague sneaking onto unattended computer

#6

Applicant horror story:

“I had a young, attractive female recruiter working for me who has quite a unique name, meaning she was easy to find on social media. She would often receive a friend request from the men she was interviewing after they left our office.”

Advice:

“This is never appropriate: it puts your recruiter in a very uncomfortable position if you’re to continue a working relationship. While it’s lovely being friendly in a professional environment, we want to save our social media for our personal lives. Maybe wait until you’ve had a chance to get to know your recruiter better before asking them to add you; this way the ball is in their court.”

Lady at work getting a friend request on Facebook

#7

Applicant horror story:

“I’m from Argentina, where we pride ourselves on being very warm and approachable. We have a different idea of personal space to Australians. When I went to interview for my first job in Australia (in hospitality at a five-star hotel), I kissed the manager on his cheek! He didn’t say anything but looked at me blankly for a few seconds before I apologised and explained the situation. During that interview, I also said that I was happy to work as a ‘chicken hand’ instead of ‘kitchen hand’! He didn’t laugh in either instance, but I did manage to get the job.”

Advice:

“Now working as a recruiter, I would advise doing a bit of research about formalities and greetings prior to an interview, especially if you are new to a culture. As an Argentinian, it was very hard for me at the beginning to stop myself from kissing people on the cheek when saying ‘hi’ or ‘bye’. People who have travelled around the world are more likely to laugh in those situations or start a conversation about cultural differences, but for others, this could come across as inappropriate and a bit invasive.”

Woman kissing colleague on the cheek

#8

Applicant horror story:

“I had a candidate arrive for an interview at my office. He’d been advised he’d be coming in to complete some paperwork (the usual application form information, nothing too difficult), followed by an informal chat. He arrived with his partner, who asked if she could sit with him to help complete the paperwork; this wasn’t an issue, we were happy to support him. The issue was the loud expletives he yelled from his interview room across our tiny office about why he needed to fill out the paperwork. I eventually intervened and asked him to leave. He left the office and flipped us all the bird on his way out the door.” 

Advice:

First impressions count! Treat people the way you wish to be treated. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak up, we’re always happy to work with you. Had we known, we could’ve offered to send the paperwork home with him and had it dropped back at a later time. There is always a work around.

Man getting angry at receptionist

#9

Applicant horror story:

We were interviewing a candidate when all of a sudden, he stopped randomly and started pulling at his tongue for about 30 seconds.  He explained he was trying to take out a hair that had somehow fallen in his mouth. We then continued with the interview, but soon after he stopped once again to try and fish out the hair. My colleague and I just sat there awkwardly while he prodded around his mouth; we weren’t sure where to look!”

Advice:

“Recruiters are human and understand that sometimes awkward things get in the way of our concentration during an interview. However, if something needs attending to that is prolonged and quite awkward, perhaps it would be better to politely excuse yourself from the room to sort it out. Or at least warn your interviewers first about what you’re doing, so they aren’t caught off guard!”

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