Your interview nightmares revealed

By 14th February 2018 News, 17 Comments

Everyone has their own interview bugbears…

But aside from just turning up late or an obvious lack of preparation, what are the worst things a candidate can do to guarantee rejection?

We asked more than 200 of you to share your all-time top interview faux-pas to find out:


No shirt, no shoes…

As the old saying goes, you are how you look. Unfortunately however, some candidates underestimate the importance of appearance, and end up looking exactly what they are – unprofessional.

Some of your favourite interview fashion faux-pas included:

 The male candidate arriving to an interview wearing jeans and no top

 The female candidate offering to change shoes half-way through questioning (and then proceeding to take out the entire contents of her bag to show the extra shoes she had brought)

 A skype interview conducted entirely in pyjamas

 A one-eyebrowed applicant

 The candidate who incorporated ‘protection’ into their outfit (saucepan lids stitched into the lining of their overcoat). Yes, we’re confused too.


Our favourite? The gentleman who arrived at the interview wearing a fishing hat full of bait (N.B. he was not applying for a position at a tackle shop).


The nervous eaters…

Unfortunately, some people get a little peckish when they’re panicking. The most sensible applicants opt for a well-balanced breakfast before the big day to avoid the mid-interview rumbles. Then there are the less sensible options…

For some of you these options included:

 Someone pulling out a cereal bar from their bag when things got a little too much

 The liquid lunch interview (‘Am I allowed to order a beer?’)

 An impromptu interview picnic

 The interviewee who managed to take in a takeaway before turning up


Bringing the bestie…

To combat interview anxiety, some candidates turn to loved ones for some much needed moral support. Unfortunately, sometimes this is taken a little further than a pre-interview phone call or text message, and applicants actually bring their sources of encouragement with them.

Moral support for certain interviewees included:

 A candidate’s best friend

 Extended members of the family (including, but not limited to, aunts and uncles)

 Spouses (In one case, a man even took his wife into the interview with him. Unfortunately, she proceeded to answer most of the questions for him).


Our favourite? The applicant that brought their mum to the interview and left her in the lobby.


You have nothing to fear but fear itself… and ducks

Many interviewees would admit to feeling scared before an interview. In fact, it’s a perfectly natural reaction. What isn’t as natural is running out of an interview screaming half-way through.

Our favourite unusual interview phobia was the poor young lady who applied for a job in a lake-side office but who had make a sharp exit on account of her overwhelming fear of ducks.

Our advice? To avoid awkward situations, always check the area you conduct your interviews in (and hope an applicant’s Anatidaephobia* doesn’t get the better of them).


I’ve started, so I’ll…

Finally, some your most popular gripes included:

 People asking for a cigarette break during proceedings

 Applicants arriving with no idea what job they’re being interviewed for

 People asking their interviewers out on dates


Our favourite? One keen interviewee in the East Midlands, who completed over half of the interview before rushing out without explanation. It turns out their parking ticket had expired.

At least they managed to avoid a fine.


How to combat interview nightmares…

Unfortunately you can’t prepare for every job interview nightmare. But you can prepare for every job interview question.

Buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again to find out how.


Honourable mentions:

  • People with personal space issues (including almost sitting on an interviewer’s lap by mistake),
  • The candidate who left their headphones in
  • The candidate who only spoke in rhymes
  • The candidate who asked to borrow money
  • The candidate who arrived in a dustbin lorry (no, really).
  • Although in fairness to the latter, they were only hitchhiking.


*The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.



Find your next hire here…



Your interview nightmares revealed by


  • Julieta says:

    More info like this will be great, hope I can stop by again and use it.

  • Nikki says:

    Absolutely hilarious I will share this with my candidates! Thank you very much for putting this together.

  • Allan Wroe says:

    I’m going back a few years but I had a candidate take a thermos to an interview. The first part of his interview went really well and the interviewer said he would like the candidate to meet one of his colleagues and left the room. When said colleague entered the room the candidate had pulled the thermos out of his bag and poured himself a coffee!

    He didn’t get the job.

  • A new trend that I am finding is candidates that just don’t turn up – despite calling/ e-mailing to confirm. This is so disappointing and a complete time waster.

  • Pip White says:

    These interviewees are a constant cause of amusement. One potential apprentice I interviewed remains a favourite – I tried but could not persuade him to take his coat off or discard his shoulder bag which remained over his head/shoulder the whole time. It was unsettling as he appeared to be on the point of standing up and leaving through the whole interview process. I guess he missed the interview skills day at college.

  • I had a candidate turn up for an internal interview wearing a pair of ladies large knickers on his head, and a coathanger hanging on his back – both for protection! Against what I never did find out.

  • Lisa says:

    Absolutely loved reading this, glad other interviewers have had similar experiences to myself. Totally agree with Jenny, I have noticed a much higher level of unexplained no-shows in the last year. I’m always amazed by the people that want to share too much information with me, including one candidate that wanted to tell me, in detail, about his wife leaving him for his friend, and how he had to take showers at the local leisure centre whilst his new bathroom was being fitted, and another much younger candidate who, when I asked what she was currently doing work / school wise replied, “well I’ve just been kicked out of six form, because I had an abscess. Apparently I took too much time off. But, it wasn’t my fault, I mean,what do they expect you to do when you’ve got tooth ache?” I was speechless.

  • Phil James says:

    Absolutely laugh out loud and this is why Recruiters love what they do!!.
    No week in the “Circus” is the same as the next and why I’ve always viewed our industry as a “Circus” as this really does explain it. I could add a four dozen or more to this, but someone should write a book or a film!


  • Ola Obilana says:

    Why has there not been a fly on the wall documentary or sitcom based in a recruitment agency yet; it would be hilarious! We are also experiencing a number of ‘no shows’ for interviews despite candidates claiming to be desperate for work; so frustrating.

  • Matthew says:

    Every now and again you get feedback from a client which you can’t help but laugh at and some brilliant ones listed here. We’ve had a number where body odour has been a problem which is always a bit awkward!

  • Faye says:

    We had someone bring their cat to an interview.

  • Sue Kelly says:

    One lady I sent out on interviewer explaining to wear her bests clothes turned up in a blue ball gown that she had wore as a bridesmaid to a legal firm !! she came in the office afterwards to provide her feedback wasn’t funny at the time but we laughed afterwards she didnt get the job sadly

  • Jo says:

    A bit off topic, but It’s so comforting to see that other recruiters are experiencing no-shows.

  • Chris Meade says:

    It’s not just interviewees who behave strangely at interviews, interviewers can also be a bit odd. A candidate told me that she had just been interviewed at a well known national recruitment company for a senior level job by a Recruitment Consultant who had his feet on the desk and was consuming his lunch. When she protested he offered her a sandwich – so that’s all right then.

  • Jeff says:

    A candidate I was flattered to find that after seeing my CV two department heads wanted to interview me for their respective areas at the same time. After this initial intro the interview proceeded and I felt everything was going well. That was until one of the interviewers leaped from he’s chair shouting a wide range of foul language and stumbled out of the room. After what felt like five minutes of the other interviewer and i staring at each other confused, the guy returned to explain that he suffered a severe cramp in his leg and couldn’t stand the pain anymore.

  • Paul says:

    I had an engineer turn up for an interview with an internationally recognised food company. He was nice and early. GOOD. Decided to park outside right outside the security / reception area with cameras everywhere and light up a cigarette. NOT IDEAL. He then discarded his cigarette and coughed up the largest “gold watch” you have ever seen and deposit it on the wall. VERY BAD. All this was caught on camera and shown to the HR representative as she arrived to collect the candidate. Needless to say he was marched off site and didn’t get his interview. The client was not happy.

  • I once interviewed a suitably attired ‘gentleman’ for the role of trainee recruitment consultant. He stretched himself out on the chair across from me in the boardroom and proceeded to stretch his arm behind his neck so that he could rest his head on his arm. This was the best part of the interview. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there as his mobile rang during the interview – he told me to ‘hang on, I need to take this call!’ – he had a chat with someone who he addressed as ‘mate’ telling his mate that he was attending an interview and would call him later. Shortly thereafter, his mobile rang again and I was once more told to ‘hang on!’ while he had a 5-minute conversation with his ‘mate’. As soon as he ended the call, I informed him that I did not think that he would be suitable for our role. It was at this point that I had to call security to remove him from the building.

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