Finding a job can be an arduous process. No matter how many hours we spend on applications, a response from the company - be it positive or negative - is not guaranteed. The sweet relief of getting an interview lifts a huge weight off our shoulders as we finally start to feel rewarded for the long and tedious work of applying for so many jobs. But what happens when the interview you dreamed of landing turns into a nightmare? What if the experience is so far from your expectations that you have no choice but to walk out of the recruitment process? We have compiled six horror stories that resulted in the candidates walking out. Grab the popcorn because these are drama-filled!
Joni - Marketing Intern - Brooklyn, New York City
For context, I am a young college student and was hoping to find an internship that could place me in my chosen marketing career path. A listing posted as a “Marketing Intern’’ seemed perfect for me. They mentioned that it would give interns exposure to a vast clientele and many opportunities to advance through the company, and, of course, the most crucial part, it was paid. I was invited in for an interview and paid out of pocket for a ticket to Manhattan. What awaited me in the big city was pure chaos.
There was deafening music playing while I sat there waiting for my interview, which began 40 minutes later than scheduled. People were running around and shouting at each other, like chickens without their heads. As a millennial hoping to join the startup world, I can appreciate a busy atmosphere, but this was just sloppy. Still, it would be a good experience and it was paid, so I decided to interview. The meeting was so rushed that I didn’t even have time to ask my questions at the end. Their excuse was that due to a high volume of applications, the interviews were being shortened.
“As a millennial hoping to join the startup world, I can appreciate a busy atmosphere, but this was just sloppy.”
At 7 pm, I got a call from the CEO. He boasted about how great my resume was and the company was hoping to take me, but I still had to pass a second round. This was what they called a “Taster Day” to see if I would be a good fit for the team. It seemed like a lengthy process for a marketing intern position, but I went along with it. I once again bought my train ticket into Manhattan only for me to find out that we would be going back to Brooklyn to spend the day there.
We stopped for coffee and the employee I was accompanied by gave me some information about the day and the company. I took notes in the notepad I was told to bring. I was also told I could not use my phone at all; meanwhile, the employee I was with was on her phone the entire time. It occurred to me that I was being “trained” for a sales position, and not the marketing role I had applied for. I was shocked when we started knocking on doors to sell the company’s products, but I assumed we’d do this for an hour or so and then go back to the office.
We did it for way more than a few hours with no breaks, not even for lunch. We walked all around Brooklyn - including the sketchier parts - while the employee I was following solicited small businesses. At this point, I wanted to warn them not to listen. I grew aggravated at the experience and how this was nothing like the position advertised. It didn’t match the information from the first interview or what the CEO told me. If I had gotten a chance to ask questions, this is precisely what I was going to ask. Eventually, I respectfully told her that this was not the day I had agreed to and to withdraw my application. I paid for one more public transport ticket - which quickly adds up when you’re a student - and went home.
Pat - Electronics Manufacturing - Cork, Ireland
I was on my way to an engineering job interview scheduled for 9 am on the other side of the city. Needless to say, it took a long time to get through traffic, and I barely arrived on time. The stress I was feeling on the commute slowly turned into relief that I wasn’t late. When I walked in, the receptionist didn’t even know who I was and didn’t have me on the list of applicants coming in for an interview. She had me wait while she went to find someone. A long 45 mins later, I was brought into a glass-fronted conference room that looked out onto the cafeteria floor. Time and people kept passing while I just sat there staring out the window.
“Time and people kept passing while I just sat there staring out the window.”
I waited there for another hour, which felt like the whole morning. Eventually, a man came in with a straight face showing zero emotion. He was clearly in a rush and had no interest in me at all. He threw loose sheets of paper at me, which had technical questions, and he said, quickly and sternly, “Answer these questions, and I’ll be back in 30 minutes.” He was halfway out the door when I called him back and said, “Hold on, I’ve been here for a long time waiting for my interview to start. This interview was scheduled for 9 am, and I have another interview this afternoon. Can you please sit down with me, and we can fly through these questions so I can get to my next interview?” He did not seem impressed. Still, he reluctantly sat down. We quickly went through the questions as they were quite basic. I then handed him back the pen and said, “Thanks for the interview, but I don’t think you want me, and at this stage, I don’t want to work here. All the best.”
Lisa - Administration - New England, USA
While working at a job I was unhappy with, I started looking for new opportunities. I came across a seemingly good position in another state and decided to try my luck and go for it. I was still relatively new in my role at the time so I didn’t have a lot of time off to use to travel for an interview. Before taking the leap and applying, I wanted to know what the salary would be as my current paycheck was a good one. I called the company and asked for the salary range; they wouldn’t answer.
I applied anyway, thinking they would give me this information as a candidate. I was invited to an interview but before making the long drive to their offices, I again asked for the salary range. They told me it was “confidential”, despite most of their positions’ salaries being available online. From what I could see online, the organization paid some roles very high compared to the industry average, but some much lower. I didn’t want to travel so far and take a precious day off only to find out I would be taking a salary cut. They told me not to ask for salary information upfront and wait until I had an offer. All I wanted was a range, not a specific down-to-the-dollar number.
After much consideration and based on the prestige of the organization and the job title, I agreed to come in for the interview. I wore a full-court suit. It was so hot that my lipstick melted and splashed all over my suit. Needless to say, I was irritated. When I went into the building, the HR director told me I would have a panel interview after learning about the salary range and benefits. She went on about the benefits and she named a figure that was 40% less than what I was on. I nearly rolled off the chair due to the shock and anger. She noticed my shift in humor and said she remembered me calling and that she did not disclose the figure or range because she wanted me to come in.
“She named a figure that was 40% less than what I was on. I nearly rolled off the chair due to the shock and anger.”
The woman said she felt the job was a great opportunity and that the organization was prestigious, but my decision was already made and I began to gather my things. She admitted that they were having trouble filling the role and were desperate to do so. Of course they were; no one in my field would work for those wages. I had made more in a student internship. She trailed me out, advising me to stay for the interview and telling me I would be inconveniencing the people who had gathered if I did not. I didn’t even turn around. I was the one being inconvenienced; the other people were working at a job they were being paid for and had to come in anyway. See ya!
Darren - Engineer - London, England
I walked out before the official interview even started. I was relocating and arranged two interviews on the same day. A local recruitment agent asked me if I could squeeze in another. Given I’d traveled from far away, I agreed. I spoke briefly to the hiring manager, who explained what the company did and the nature of the role, but as this was a last-minute interview, I did not know much about the company. I thought that the recruitment agency would have stated this to the interviewers. Alas, this was not the case.
When I arrived at the interview, the HR representative took me aside and ushered me into a little room so I could take the pre-interview test. This wasn’t a big deal, but when I opened the test paper, it was 100 pages long! And then, as if they were pulling my leg, I opened the test and read that it should take “no longer than 8 hours to complete.” Furthermore, there was a section for a 1000-word essay on my knowledge of the company and how I thought I would compliment the organization’s core values.
“When I opened the test paper, it was 100 pages long [and] read that it should take no longer than 8 hours to complete. There was a section for a 1000-word essay on my knowledge of the company”
I quietly closed the paper and handed it back to the HR rep. I asked politely and tried to disguise my irritation about what on earth this test was meant to achieve. I wondered why they wanted an essay about a company I knew nothing about. I asked him, “What is this test about, and why would I take it knowing full well that I didn’t know anything about the company?” He got pretty offended and told me this was standard practice, and I could take it or leave it. So I left. I never heard from that company or the recruiter ever again.
Nathan - Professional Pilot - Louisville, Kentucky
I declined to come back for a third interview with a fast-food company as an airplane pilot. During the initial interview, I was given a book by the CEO and told to read it before the following interview. I thought this was strange, like, would I have a test on it or something? But then things started to get weirder. When I was given a tour of the hangar, I began to notice strange things as I walked around. I felt like I was witnessing an induction into a cult.
“I began to notice strange things as I walked around. I felt like I was witnessing an induction into a cult.”
Everyone had trinkets on their desks which turned out to be trophies from the various executives. For example, it was a great “honor” to get a set of chattering teeth, a Mr. Potato Head, or one of those apples you give kids (the ones that make noise when you roll them). Everyone had a copy of the book on their desk too. The office staff was really laid back and friendly, which wasn’t so odd, but the office had a definite Children of the Corn or Stepford Wives feel.
When I met the department manager, he admitted that the company gave off a certain “vibe.” I asked about a “vintage” Fender Stratocaster on his wall. It wasn’t vintage; he just paid to make it look that way. He told me he only played it once a month at his church. There was an overly long pause. I’m sure he was waiting for me to ask about his church or something. I sat silently because that was not the direction I wanted our interview to go in. The whole experience was strange, and I knew I did not want to be a part of such a bizarre company. I left and called them the next day to explain why I would not be attending the third interview. They at least thanked me for being honest.
Kevin - Advertising - London, England
I used to work in advertising at a local newspaper. I was doing well, but every time I hit my target, my boss would significantly increase it. It just kept escalating to the point where I was bringing in almost twice the sales as other reps but not earning very much more than them. I decided it was time to start looking around for a new job. I applied for a position with a local competitor, and lo and behold, I got an interview.
Both interviewers were pretty young. They started asking questions about my employer, “How do you do X and Y where you work?” I gave them a morsel of information to keep them interested. The next question was again about the workings of my current company. This annoyed me a bit - they hadn’t even started asking about me yet. Still, maybe they were new in management and not adequately trained in how these things should be done. “Well,” I said, “I don’t think I am in a position to tell you that here and now, but once I’m on the team, maybe I can go into more detail.” Then they asked me to give them my employer’s sales turnover and profit margins for our various products. I stood up, gathered my things, and walked out, telling them I had never seen such unprofessional behavior.
“The next question was again about the workings of my current company. This annoyed me a bit - they hadn’t even started asking about me yet.”
Take these stories as a lesson, one that permits you to leave when you are 100% sure that the job just isn’t for you. One of the most essential things when deciding to take a new job is how you feel when interviewing. Do you feel comfortable, do you feel like you fit culturally, and could you see yourself working there? Please, feel free to leave if all you see are red flags flapping in the wind.
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