Now, we’ve all heard the story about the candidate that missed their interview, or committed a faux pas asking about salary or vacation time right away. The classic interview horror stories include candidates who were forgotten about and left in waiting rooms for hours, candidates who fall asleep in interviews or falsify previous salary/employment information. But how many people can say they’ve been given an exam with no right answers? Or have been offered a rare sports car along with a job offer?
Jamie Katz, an executive recruiter at Parker Clark Executive Recruitment, a New York City firm which specializes in the placement of financial professionals, has experienced many odd and unusual interviews throughout his career. One of Katz’s clients, a hiring manager, interviewed a candidate for a position who was overweight. When the hiring manager saw the interviewee, they said “Wow, you’re huge.” Oops.
Another experience Katz can remember is an odd story involving an exam with no right answers. “There was a candidate interviewing for a tech position who was given an exam which was meant to be a technical evaluation. The exam was multiple choice but had no right answers. When given the test, the candidate didn’t say anything — he just walked out of the interview.”
Another story Katz shared involved a candidate who applied for an operations position. “In the interview they were asked why they left their previous company. The candidate replied, ‘to get out of operations’” says Katz. Needless to say, that candidate did not receive an offer.
Katz has seen candidates who have been forgotten about and left in waiting rooms for hours. He has also heard of candidates who have falsified salary information in the hopes of getting a bigger offer. “Many, if not most of my clients will verify the candidate’s previous salary or ask for a pay stub after the offer” says Katz. “I’ve had candidates fired after only working a few weeks for providing this type of misinformation.”
Richard Turner, of Strategic Resources, a Bellevue, Washington-based executive search firm, shared a very unusual story regarding a potential candidate who flew to an interview the previous evening, never showed up, and flew home the next morning. “I called for a week with no reply until the call was answered by a Sheriff Deputy. I learned that candidate had died in his apartment the day after he got home.”
Paul Freed, President of the Northwest Recruiters Association, who has been recruiting for 14 years, also had a few unique stories to share.
“An executive candidate had just completed his final interview with the top executive team. He was crisp and polished in person, top MBA degree and solid industry experience. Things were definitely looking good as they discussed offer details. His car was parked in front of the interview room and they watched as he opened his car door, emptied his McDonald's trash from his car onto the parking lot right in front of the executives behind the glass interview room. He didn't get the job,” says Freed.
In another story, a fast growing digital media company was in the final stages of competing for an executive. During the interview process, they learned he was a car enthusiast. The CEO had the internal recruiter track down this specific rare red sports car, have it delivered to his house and have a red bow on it with the offer letter. One heck of a sign bonus offer. Amazingly, he ended up turning it down but always said that was the most memorable job offer, says Freed.
Freed also shared a story involving a VP Sales candidate was trying to decide between two job offers with hot startups. “He was also an avid fisherman. The recruiter went out and found the largest possible fishing hook—it was huge, around six inches—and sent that and a tackle box loaded with company stuff and a guided fishing trip for a sign on bonus with the sign ‘Looking forward to you hooking some big clients for us.’ He accepted and said the personal touch made the difference.”
Freed has heard a handful of interesting stories as well. “I've also heard stories of candidates checking their hair/teeth in the window of the office after they just pulled up but didn't realize the interview team was inside, falling asleep in interviews, going to one interview as a man and then another as a woman with a new name after a sex change operation,” says Freed.
Don’t become another story
Usually, interviews don’t work for less dramatic reasons then the examples above. Katz cautions candidates to avoid the classic mistakes of asking about salary and vacation time during an interview. He feels that potential candidates should be able to speak intelligently about themselves and reminds interviewees to know their resume and do their homework on the position as well as their own background.
“It’s a major faux pas when candidates don’t do their homework on their own background or don’t know their own resume, because you have to address your past experience. Very often when this happens, this is the reason why there is no success in the interview.” And don’t exaggerate your background. Depending on the company, you may have to undergo a background check and falsified employment or salary information can be grounds for dismissal.
For those of you who are interviewing in 2008, good luck!