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How to Interview (Un) Successfully

Updated on June 20, 2013

56 Ways to Shoot Yourself in the Foot when Interviewing.

The interviewer asked, “Why did you leave your last job?"

The candidate responded: 'I have a problem with authority."

As a hiring manager, I’ve done more than my share of interviewing during a 34-year career. Most of the responses from the applicants I interviewed were reasonable and intelligent. But occasionally I would hear a statement like the above from an unschooled applicant who was being honest or flippant and in the process, shooting himself in the foot.

I collected all these inane and often hysterical remarks and added to my list all the other strange interviewing statements shared by colleagues and readers of my book. Caution: these answers may be hard to forget. Do not use them when you interview.

Q.Why should we hire you? "I would be a great asset to help with events because I party all the time . . . . My kids are grown so I don't have sitter problems . . . . My dog is dead so he can't chew up my work . . . . I drive a new car so I don't have car issues . . . . And I’m too old for cramps and migraines.”

Q. Why are you looking for a job? Cigarettes are getting more expensive, so I need another job . . . . My parents told me I need to get a job so that is why I'm here . . . . I really need this job. My medication is very expensive, and the voices are coming back . . . . I was fired from my last job because they were forcing me to attend anger management classes . . . . I need a steady income to pay for steroids, food supplements and my gym membership . . . ." On a written application) “My boss went back to his wife.”

Q. Tell us about a problem you had with a co-worker and how you resolved it
The resolution was we were both fired.”

Q. Do you have any questions?
"Cross dressing isn't a problem is it? . . . What is your company's policy on Monday absences? . . . So, how much do they pay you for doing these interviews? . . . Is it OK if I leave every day around 10 am for my Aerobics class? . . . If you were a tree, what tree would you be?" (Candidate asked this before I could ask him.) . . . "How big do the bonuses really get once you make associate? I hear it's some serious cash . . . . When you do background checks on candidates, do things like DUI arrests come up? . . . Do you mind if I use my cell phone to call and check on my pain medicine? . . . Does the drug test include pot, or just the hard stuff? . . . If I get an offer, how long do I have before I have to take the drug test? . . . Can I leave the office for two hours every day to meditate? I have to do this after taking my Prozac. . . . May I have a cup of coffee? I think I may still be a little hung-over from last night . . . . Can you give me a lower salary so I can still qualify for Medicaid benefits because your insurance premiums are too high?"

Q. What are your hobbies and interests?
"I like ponies. I've never had one, but someday I hope to get one . . . . Well, as you can see, I'm a young, strong, virile man and I'm single - you know what I mean? . . . I really don’t like to talk to other people about myself.”

Q. Why do you want to work for us?
"I heard you have really good benefits . . . . My old boss didn't like me, so one day I just left and never came back. And here I am! . . . I saw the job posted on Twitter and thought, why not?"

Q. What are your assets (strengths)?
"Well, I do own a motorbike . . . . My best example would be in the world of online video gaming. I pretty much run the show; it takes a lot to do that."

Q. What are your weaknesses?
"I get angry easily and I went to jail for domestic violence. But I won't get mad at you . . . . I have a tendency to oversleep and sometimes have trouble getting out of bed in the morning . . . . I'm not a big learner. You know, some people love learning and are always picking up new things, but that's just not me. I'd much rather work at a place where the job is pretty stagnant and doesn't change a lot . . . . I'm just not a morning person."

And this is one of my all-time favorites: "I'm a procrastinator." Interviewer: "That may not be the best answer to the question." "I know it, so two days ago, I bought a book on how to deal with procrastination and I plan to start reading it next week.”

Q. When can you start?
"I need to check with my mom on that one."

Q. Use three adjectives to describe yourself
"I hate questions like this."

Q. Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you dealt with it?
"I stole some equipment from my old job, and I had to pay for its replacement."

Q. Have you submitted your two weeks' notice to your current employer?
"What is two weeks' notice? I've never quit a job before, I've always been fired."

Q. Is there anything else I should know about you?
"You should probably know I mud wrestle sometimes on the weekends . . . . Wow –I'm just not used to wearing dress shoes. My feet are swollen and they are killing me. Want to see the blisters?"

Q. Why are you applying to be a police officer? "I've noticed that broads like guys in uniforms best. I am really excited about getting to carry a gun.” (Whoa!) ,,, “Are the donuts free or do I have to pay for them?”

Q. "How would you deal with an irate customer? "I was raised by my mother and grandmother, so I'm used to having women yell at me."

Q. What experience do you have in a retail environment? “Shoplifting at the mall when I was in high school."

Q. Do you have experience with correspondence? “What is correspondence?"
Interviewer: "You know – letters; can you type letters?”
"Oh, yes, and I can type numbers, too!"

Q. You know you will have to pass a drug test. “That’s easy. I can identify every drug there is with no problems.”

Candidates’ responses on written applications:

Q. Who should we call in case of an emergency? A. "911".

Q. What was your last position? A. “Swiss Board operator”

Q. Sex?(on older applications) A. "Twice a week”

Q. (to female) Will you have any problem lifting the heavy equipment required for the job? A. “The only thing I can't do is write my name in the snow without getting my ankles wet!”

Examples of 'chutspa': "What do you want me to do if I cannot walk to work if it's raining? Can you pick me up? . . . Can we wrap this up fairly quickly? I have someplace else I have to go . . . . " (Applicant on phone) “Can we meet next month? I am currently incarcerated."

Think about this: You can usually tell whether a person is clever by his answers. You can also tell whether a person is wise by his questions.

© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2011, 2012 All rights reserved.

Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Includes most-needed, valuable information for older workers.

Comments for How to Interview (Un) Successfully

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    • profile image

      Textured Ideas 

      7 years ago

      It wasn't an intended ploy but yes I'm sure that would have been a good idea! Yes unfortunately I haven't been able to find work for quite some time now but times are tough and I've learned not to take it personally. Hopefully something will be available soon. Thank you for your kind words!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      You, sweetie, unemployed? Hard to believe, my dear. I would hire you in a New York minute. Sharpness, wit and humor are treasured by me along with both kinds of IQ, of course.

      That leaving your phone behind may be a clever ploy; gives you a reason for returning and wowing the interviewer again. No?

      Thanks for the visit. You are appreciated. :)

    • profile image

      Textured Ideas 

      7 years ago

      Oh my, this is hilarious! And this line really cracked me up: "Cross dressing isn't a problem is it?"

      It's so easy to muck interviews up when you get nervous.

      I once had a job interview and turned up on the wrong day - duh! I turned up the day after the interview but the woman gave me the job anyway. I suppose I surprised her. During another interview I left my mobile phone behind and had to return all the way back for it. But luckily, I got that job too!

      And I wonder why I'm unemployed after doing daft things like those! hehe

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      I think I have the answer, Micky. That clean T-shirt you wear - does it have "Fokk U" on the front? That could be the problem if you don't turn around and give interviewers the opportunity to read the "Fokk University" on the back of your shirt.

      Happy to help any time. :)

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      7 years ago

      drbj I need your help. I apply for jobs to no avail! I had a haircut and shave 40 years ago. I always wear a clean T-shirt. Sometimes I even wear shoes to these interviews. Nothing. I guess folks just aren't hiring.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Yes - please share the interviewing answers with one and all. Preparation beforehand is one of the keys to a successful interview. And having the appropriate answers puts the applicant ahead of the pack.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, Nellieanna - how nice to have you visit here. Delighted that I provided you some laughs - that's my favorite thing to do.

      Interviewing is a serious business but the folks who made all these statements were very funny!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      I've just read that blog - it's incredibly valuable. I'm past the interviewing age but will pass it along to some of my progeny who are right "there". Wonderful advice - and there are subtleties they might not be aware of - probably wouldn't, in fact! Very useful and helpful!!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      OMG! This is just too funny to believe. I was laughing out loud from the beginning. drbj - you're so good! I will definitely go look at your other website! Love this! Thanks for directing me over here from Steve's hub about what not to do when interviewing. This is a perfect companion to his or vice-versa.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      I knew, Steve, that you would appreciate these interviewing answers. And I appreciate your visit and the "hysterical." Thanks for stopping by.

    • SteveoMc profile image


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Hysterical, hahaha! You are barking up the right tree with me. Enjoyed the run down especially the sex twice a week, and cross dressing isn't a problem is it? LOL


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