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6 Real-Life Job Interview Horror Stories

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In an ideal world, you would walk into an interview, answer every question perfectly—dazzling everyone in their seats—and get an offer with amazing stock options before you even leave the building. Take the filter off, though, and most of the time you’re nervous, maybe even a little sweaty, and you’re worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong. Next time you’re in the hot seat, no matter what happens, these interview horror stories prove that you can live to tell the tale. Sit back, relax, and be so very grateful that these didn’t happen to you:

Lipgloss 101

“I was interviewing with Ann Shoket, then the editor-in-chief of Seventeen, where I’d wanted to work for as long as I can remember. I bought a brand new dress specifically for the occasion, and did as the career gurus say and tried my outfit on the night before, just to make sure nothing was making noise or bunching up on me. On the big day, while I was waiting in the lobby to be called in by Ann’s assistant, I touched up with one last swipe of lip gloss before going into her office. Afterward, I thought to myself, Hey, that went pretty well! Confident as a Kardashian, I marched into the elevator, which had a mirror along the back wall. To my horror, I noticed a huge glob of Bobbi Brown lip gloss on my teeth. Yep, it’d been there the whole time. Luckily, Ann judged me on more than just my makeup and hired me for the job. But if you ever interview me for something down the road, you can bet I’ll be wearing very clear, practically invisible ChapStick!” —Devin, 27

[Related: Why Bold Lip Color is the New Power Suit]

Repeat Offender

“My Princeton interview was at Yeshiva University with an Orthodox Jewish alumnus who was in grad school there. I had done my research previously and had decided I would ask about the famous eating clubs of Princeton, as that’s something unique to the school and fairly common among people who go there. My interviewer explained that since he followed kosher laws, he was unable to partake and could only eat at one cafeteria in Princeton that kept kosher. I felt bad for the question and felt like an idiot that I had asked someone with dietary restrictions about food clubs, so I decided to go for a joke and say that the kosher cafeteria was like a mini eating club. He kind of just went silent after that and changed topics. And that’s when I knew I was never getting into Princeton. At my Harvard Law School interview, I talked about my place in the classroom and tried to describe how I was sociable and friendly with my teachers, often joking around with them. When the interviewer asked if I was the class clown, I knew I wasn’t getting into Harvard.” —Grant, 24

Clash of the Time Zones

“I’m originally from New York, but at the time I was planning a move to San Francisco and interviewing for jobs there. I’d made it to the last round with a start-up accelerator, and they asked me to meet in-person. As you do, I booked a Drybar blowout well in advance of my 1 p.m. interview. So there I sat, in jeans with no makeup on, happily watching some rom-com with a dryer to my hair, when I went to check my phone. I had a message from the CEO—everyone was waiting for me, where was I? In a panic, I checked my calendar and realized the invite had said 1 p.m., but it synced to my actual calendar in Pacific Standard Time—10 a.m.—and I didn’t catch it. I dashed out the door, ran home to change, and did my makeup in the car while my boyfriend sped-drove me to the scene. I showed up a half hour late, and luckily they were understanding, but that was definitely an exception. Words of wisdom: Always, always, always double check your calendar—and the time zone—before an interview!” —Elizabeth, 27

Food Faux Pas

“It was my very first in-person interview, and the bank flew me out to NYC and put me up in a hotel. I decided to get some food, and went back to the hotel to shower. Near the end of my shower I started to not feel so hot. Turns out, I was starting to get food poisoning for the first, and still only, time in my life. I spent almost the entire night on the floor of the bathroom by myself. To top it off, I got my period. I felt so sick that I thought I had the stomach flu, and my mom called the hotel doctor and had him talk to me. I finally drifted halfway to sleep around 4 a.m for about an hour and a half. Then had to get up, salvage the frizz ball that my wet hair became and pull myself together for the interview. Ultimately, I was put on hold, which was a pretty impressive feat considering only about 4 candidates of 20 were put on hold and only 1 or 2 actually got an offer. When it was finally over, the other kid interviewing from my school suggested we go to Shake Shack…I haven’t been a fan of that place since. Also I still had to drag my body through the airport to Chicago, and a connecting flight to South Bend. I didn’t even end up working at this place.” —Laura, 23

To Infinity and Beyond

“A family friend referred me to this guy who owns a PR firm, and suggested I meet him just to chat, learn about his firm, and get an idea of what PR is all about. I show up and he takes me out to lunch. Lo and behold…it’s an interview. We sat there for two hours—I didn’t even take a bite of my food—and he laid out scenario after scenario asking me to come up with creative solutions. It felt impossible. Then took me back to his office and said, ‘Okay, time for your writing test.’ Excuse me?! He plopped me down with a laptop and went, “Write me an article about the importance of staying fit in inclement weather.” No internet, no further instructions. I banged out three-quarters of a page in 20 minutes. A week later, he called and said I did great on the writing test and had me come back to meet more people…for three more hours. Days later, he called again, wanting me to come to a day long ‘innovation workshop,’ but thankfully I couldn’t make it. Still, he had me come in again to talk to him and his VP. Every step of the way, he’d also ask me about current events. He told me to start reading the newspaper and every time I spoke to him, he quizzed me on the day’s happenings. Finally he said he’d have a decision for me by the following week. He called and proceeded to interview me once more. Half an hour later he called back and offered me the job. It was the most absurd—and unexpected—interview process I’ve ever experienced.” —Caitlin, 23

An Unexpected Visitor

“I arrived early for an interview at a coffee shop—only to find that my interviewer had shown up even earlier and was waiting for me. Things were already off to an awkward start. We were talking about the work I do as a member of the campus ministry team and educating students on the struggles of those less fortunate. All of the sudden, a homeless man walks in and directly approaches our table. I quickly tried to disengage the man by apologizing and stating that I didn’t have any money on me—a simple comment that has always gone over just fine in the past. This time it didn’t. The homeless man confronted me about how I didn’t give him a chance to talk and immediately disregarded him. For a good three minutes he went on, telling me how he hopes that one day someone treats me the way I treated him. My interviewer just sat there quietly as this was happening. I tried to make a quick joke after he finally left, but the rest of the interview was pretty awkward after that.” —Taylor, 24

Read: 5 Things Never to Say in an Interview

Photo: Robert Daly / Getty Images

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