They did what??? Survey reveals wackiest interview mistakes

You’ve probably had some job interviews go not quite the way you expected. But we bet you’ve never seen mistakes like these! 

CareerBuilder has released a survey of the most unusual things they’ve seen in interviews. And boy, is this list a doozy!

It includes:

  • Candidate asked to step away to call his wife to ask her if the starting salary was enough before he agreed to continue with the interview.
  • Candidate asked where the nearest bar was located.
  • Candidate brought his childhood toys to the interview.
  • Candidate ate a pizza he brought with him (and didn’t offer to share).
  • Candidate asked interviewer why her aura didn’t like the candidate.
  • Candidate invited interviewer to dinner afterwards.
  • Candidate stated that if the interviewer wanted to get to heaven, she would hire him.
  • Candidate ate crumbs off the table.
  • Candidate said her hair was perfect when asked why she should become part of the team.
  • Candidate sang to a song on the radio playing overhead.
  • Candidate bragged about the fact that they were in the local newspaper for allegedly stealing a treadmill from an older woman’s house.
  • Candidate put on and took off her sunglasses repeatedly.


Job interviews are a unique social interaction. They bring together two disparate groups. The powerful and the powerless. The seeker and the possessor. The supply and the demand incarnate.

That any two people should meet on the opposite end of a desk at all is a tiny miracle. Billions upon billions of coincidences have to occur for the conditions of life to exist on a planet. Billions more for life to become intelligent. For intelligent life to develop communication skills and social societies is no guarantee, either. A few tweaks of genetic structure, and man could just have easily been violent, inhospitable to coexisting for any purpose other than reproduction. For all of this to result in a structure in which humans are organized into mini-societies, or businesses, in which each person has a role to play is beyond comprehension.

Yet, when one person violates a social and cultural norm by being so moved by music during this interaction that they sing along to it, it becomes humorous. The amazement comes not at the inherent gravitation toward the universal language of music, but rather that the job seeker did not suppress this urge in order to put up a facade of perfect control over their primal selves.

In other words, the humor is that a person acted as the very fiber of their being wanted to instead of as they were expected to.


Picture yourself sitting across from a job candidate who does one of these things. The amazement that washes over you as they behave so bizarrely.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. There are multiple layers of protection that should ensure only those who are truly worthy of your time and attention reach this level. There is the scanning of the resume, either by a machine or human playing the role of a machine, finding the words that correspond to your desires. Once a meeting time is sent and agreed upon, the courtship is to begin.

As any ballroom dancer or pairs figure skater will tell you, the end product should not betray the sheer physical and mental effort that goes into each movement. On a surface level, all is calm. There is perfect control. Yet a violent, well-rehearsed dance is occurring beneath the surface. Each partner must play their role perfectly or it will all fall apart.

You are the lead. You ask questions, and good questions are expected in return. You act as if you are the pursuer, yet you are the pursued. In fact, according to the survey, 51% of managers know in the first five minutes whether the candidate will be a good fit for a position. Yet the world expects a dance, so a dance they will be given.

So when a partner drops their routine, it should be infuriating. It should mean time has been wasted.


Yet you are not annoyed. Secretly, you are thrilled by the idea of an imperfect candidate reaching this level. The story you will have from a candidate bringing a cheese pizza along for their interview is worth more to you than finding a perfect fit who is willing to work long hours for less money than you budgeted.

How can this be? The goal was to fill a need, was it not? This is chaos, and order was the ultimate goal. It is now you realize that this half hour of your life will live with you long after the 1,800 seconds budgeted for this meeting on your calendar have elapsed.

The story will be told first to co-workers. Then it will be shared with family. Work conferences. First dates. It will remain with you until you receive a call from CareerBuilder asking, out of the blue, “Have you ever had any truly odd job interviewees?”

You will smile, knowing that your story will be shared again and again by writers on deadline who need to fill space in order to keep their own jobs.


But what of the other party? Will they remember this day, too? Was donning and doffing sunglasses out of the norm for them, or did it seem entirely ordinary? Will they even remember you?

It’s possible you caught them on the worst day of their life. It’s possible this whole process meant nothing to them, so they decided to have a little laugh at your expense when you thought the laugh was at theirs. It’s possible that they never even wanted this, or any, job. Their experiences are their own, and thus entirely unknowable to you, or perhaps anyone else. To examine their lives will force you to examine yours more closely. So it is better to assume this person is nothing like you. You are the good one, the right one. They are confused. Everything is as it should be; there is no place for questioning.

And so we laugh. For we are not like them. But we could have been.


The survey does have some advice for job hunters and managers alike. The most important thing: honesty. Lying about something was a deal-breaker for two-thirds (66%) of employers.

Body language was also important. Being too fidgety, failing to make eye contact or smile and even having too firm of a handshake were seen as turnoffs to potential employers.

At the same time, for both interviewers and interviewees, preparation is key. Having a clear idea of how the interview should go and what you want to learn about the candidate is essential for success.


Make Smarter Tech Decisions

Get the latest IT news, trends, and insights - delivered weekly.

Privacy Policy