These Interviews Were Cut Short—For Good Reason

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Woman holding up her hand to say stopThe awkward interview. Most of have participated in one, either as the candidate or hiring manager. I’ve been a party to a couple, though none are nearly as outrageous as those that follow.

Have a story of your own? Of course you do. Please share it with us in the comments when you’re done reading.

I. Sex, Drugs, & Rock n’ Roll

Before Andrea R. Frayser authored “The Pennywize Vegetarian,” she was in charge of hiring a Defense contractor in the DC Metro area. While filling this particular job, she was unfortunate enough to conduct not just one, but two interviews that were bad enough to be cut short.


The first noteworthy candidate (albeit for the wrong reasons) was a middle-aged woman who was passing her interview with flying colors. Frayser called in the employees who the candidate would be working with if hired (who were both handsome and in serious relationships).

The candidate requested a break to freshen up and Frayser sung her praises while she was gone. The candidate returned, but this time her bra was off and her shirt was unbuttoned more than it had been.

“During the course of conversation, it became clear that she was willing to go the extra mile,” Frayser said. “I was feeling very uncomfortable at this point, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when she started talking about how she had to leave her last position because she got caught orally gratifying her old boss. She had told me initially, that she left because of department restructuring. At that point I stood up and announced, ‘Ok, I’ve heard enough, we will let you know what we decide.’ Needless to say- she did not get the job.”

Drugs & Rock n’ Roll

During the second interview disaster, a job seeker in her early twenties arrived in jeans and a Jimmy Hendrix t-shirt. Frayser had not been sent a resume by the staffing company so she asked if the candidate had a copy of her resume. The candidate did, folded in her pocket. As Frayser recalls,

“When she reached back to get it out for me, a marijuana joint fell out. I asked her if that was hers, pointing to it on the floor, she said Yeah, why don’t we go outside, and light it up? My response was, ‘You can go on without me, and keep going.’ She had the nerve to call back to complain that we discriminated against her because she was black. I had to remind her that I was too.”

II. What’s that smell?

What you wear to a job interview goes beyond the clothing. Your hair and nails should be presentable, and your breath and body should be free of any excessive odors. Too much perfume? Bad. Too much garlic from lunch? Bad. Bad BO? Bad, bad, bad. Rob Robinson, co-founder of, is no stranger to this.

“I once had a sales candidate show up with a strong and unpleasant odor,” Robinson recalled. “It had a sort of a dirty diaper/cat urine quality to it. As I was trying to be polite and struggle through the smell, he began to tell me in rambling fashion how he was recently fired by his previous employer because his boss was a real jerk and didn’t understand [him]. About a minute later, he stopped talking and I stopped asking questions. At that point, I simply thanked him for his time and led him out. I think the entire interview lasted about 3 stinky minutes.”

III. Your bejeweled denim jacket is not bedazzling me

Speaking of things you shouldn’t wear to an interview, Kelley Burfeind, marketing manager at Doherty Staffing, has a story to tell.

A woman was arriving for her third and final interview, during which the candidate would meet with the owner of the company for an HR Manager position. “Her initial attire was dressy with full suits and professional appearance,” Burfeind said. “I met with her prior to the owner and found her in denim capris with a matching denim jacket that had bejeweled designs front and back. I instantly walked her out of the office and ended her opportunity to be an HR Manager with the company.”

Think that’s too harsh? I side with Burfeind, who put it very well when explaining, “It is vital to represent yourself as you would be expected to in that business culture. This person had witnessed in prior interviews the business dress code as well as previously showed herself as a person who knew to dress accordingly for an interview.”

IV. You worked where? So did I.

And then there’s the story from my CEO, Ian Siegel. Before founding, Ian was in charge of hiring at a former company. In case you need a reminder, this is why you don’t lie on your resume:

“A candidate listed a company on his resume where I had previously worked. Needless to say, he never worked there. He was not pre-screened by our HR department so the discovery of his ‘exaggeration’ happened while we were face to face during the interview. Neither one of us really knew where to go after that.”

V. Awkward jokes make for awkward interviews

When it comes to hiring, speaker and author Barry Maher has seen his fair share of interviews cut short. Of them all, the strangest that he remembers began when a member of the interview panel asked the candidate if he had any opening questions.

“At first he looked surprised by the question itself,” Maher recalls. “Then he furrowed his brow, thought for a moment and came out with, ‘Cross dressing isn’t a problem is it?’”
According to Maher, the candidate appeared perfectly serious. Then, “After a few moments of enduring the stunned silence he’d created, he tittered a bit and nervously added, ‘Just kidding, of course.’”

How did the interview panel respond? Maher explains:

“I’m sure he was kidding, simply trying to make a joke. But worse than the issue of whether or not it was an inappropriate joke, it didn’t come out sounding like he was joking. And at least one member of the interview panel was convinced he was dead serious. After perhaps the shortest and most perfunctory interview I’ve ever encountered this was the person who simply said, ‘Well, we’ve got our resume. If anything comes up that we think you might be suited for, we’ll let you know. Thank you very much.'”

Your turnWhat’s your most outlandish interview story?

By Rachel Dotson