We've all had some bad job interviews. I have gone through at least two periods in my life where I was without a job (once out of college and once when I quit my worst job ever) and I was more prepared and applied for jobs that were more appropriate the second time, as opposed to when I was looking for a job fresh out of college. I've shown up to interviews very prepared, not so prepared, hungover and feeling great. I have had two shitty, shitty interviews that don't qualify as my worst interviews ever. Both involved selling products door-to-door, when the job posting indicated something completely different from what the interview involved. Both interviews involved me shadowing a person for an entire day (yes, the entire day and I walked around in dress shoes all day too) and in one interview I sold door-to-door in Fayetteville, North Carolina and the other interview I went from Charlotte back to my hometown 10 miles from Charlotte and sold door-to-door in a neighborhood where I knew people. By the way, at the end of both of these interviews I told my would-be supervisor in that position I would rather be unemployed than work for them. Of course, both would-be supervisors reminded me what a mistake I was making. Of course, I didn't make a mistake and can't even remember the names of each company. I'm sure they are still out there trying to get energetic college graduates to work for them in some bizarre pyramid scheme.
But my worst job interview also happened to be one of my shortest job interviews. I don't remember the company, but I do remember it was an insurance firm and I was applying for a more junior managerial role at that firm. I had graduated from grad school in May and it was September and I wanted a job. I was looking at the all the popular sites on a daily basis and even had the Fortune 500 list bookmarked and went through 100 of those companies everyday to where I was looking at those companies for jobs once a week. So I found this job I thought I might apply for through one of these sites. It dealt with numbers, didn't seem like it involved too much sales, and it was a semi-managerial position. So I applied for it, and as I was want to do, promptly forget the specifics of the job as I went searching for the hundreds of other jobs available in the hopes someone would hire me so I could start living my life.
A week later or so, I got a phone call from this insurance firm and they wanted me to come in for an interview. I looked back at the spreadsheet I kept of jobs I applied for with the job description included. I was surprised because I did feel like it was a bit of a reach for me to even get a call in response to my application since I didn't have prior work experience in the field, but it was a pleasant surprise. So I studied up on the company, learned more about the position, got my questions ready and didn't stay out too late with my friends the night before. I was prepared. I woke up the next morning and drove to downtown Raleigh to the interview.
The office was full of dark wood panels. That's all I remember. The wood paneling was really dark and the reception area wasn't huge. I checked in with receptionist and within probably 15 seconds a gentleman came out and introduced himself and brought me back to his office. He was a middle-aged white man (I know, a shock, right?) dressed in a shirt and tie. Pretty standard look and he had the corner office with a nice view of the street through some trees. He was a cliche. He sat me down and that's where the fun began. I remember most of the conversation, which isn't hard since I was there for maybe five minutes. And I promise, I am not making his tone and antagonism up.
(Guy...in a very loud tone that appears to try and sound threatening...it's a standard dominant-male-trying-to-intimidate-to-see-what-you-are-made-of act) "Tell me about yourself."
(Me, knowing this is always the first question asked is ready to nail this question) "Well...(I start the whole spiel about my background and then he interrupts)"
(Guy) "No, specifically why did you apply for this job?"
(Me) "I thought the job description sounded interesting and I have a background in with finance and money, so I was hoping it would be a field I could be interested in developing a career in."
(Guy) "Well, what do you know about the field?"
(Me) "I know the insurance field isn't easy and that a lot of success depends on keeping good relations with your customers and always acquiring new customers to keep the business growing."
(Guy...I realize now his tone isn't supposed to be threatening, but he's essentially fucking with me...he's antagonizing me and I had no idea why) "My job. What do you know about my job?"
(Me...looking at my notes) "I don't think I'm applying for your job, am I?"
(Guy...smiles condescendingly) "No, you are not. But tell me what you think I do on a daily basis, from the time I walk in the office until the time I leave."
(Me...in a tone that is meek, because I need a job...these cigarettes and alcohol aren't going to pay for themselves) "I have no idea what you do on a daily basis from when you walk in until you leave during the day. I'm eager to know, which is why I'm here to see if we are a good fit."
(Guy...asking the questions in a tone that I now see isn't confrontational or antagonizing necessarily, but he brought me here to tell me how I am underqualified for the job) "We aren't a good fit. But do tell me what you think I do on a daily basis."
(Me...I'm defeated at this point, but I keep going...) "Okay, when you get in at 8am you...(I go through a list of what I think he does, which based on the fact I had never worked in the office was obviously completely incorrect)
(Guy shake his head at me) "All wrong. I come in early every morning before 8am (I should have stood up and given him applause I guess), look at my agenda for the day, plan my client meetings, plan at least two hours (and he puts up two fingers as if I would fail to understand what "two" means) for additional phone calls, have meetings with staff members and get updates on how the business is going. I leave after 5pm everyday."
(Me...not giving up) "And those are all things I would like to do in the future---"
(Guy) "Not here you won't. Why would you apply for a job you aren't even qualified for? Why would you waste my time and have me interview you when you have no idea what I do and what the position calls for?"
(Me...done giving up giving up) "In fairness, I have no prior work experience outside of work done during summers in high school and college, so I don't know what any job consists of because I haven't been given a chance to learn. I can't get job experience until I'm given a chance to do a job. Also, I don't think I applied for your job."
(Guy) "Yes, but this is a job that requires someone who has experience. It said on the posting it takes 3-5 years experience (which is something I knew at the time is just put on there to get more qualified candidates to apply and I know that now too when I interview people and put "3-5 years experience" on the job posting) and you march in here with zero years experience. You need to reconsider your job search and start applying for jobs that you are qualified for and not waste anyone else's time."
(Me) "You didn't have to interview me and you chose to."
(Guy) "Start applying for entry level jobs you are qualified for and don't waste anyone else's time. Do you have any more questions for me?"
(Me...I did have questions for him, probably a thousand, but wanted to leave ASAP) "No."
(Guy shakes my hand and lets me out of his office) "Good to meet you and good luck."
I drove home laughing because this guy called me into his office simply to antagonize me for applying for a job. He wasted his time to berate me for wasting his time. It seemed sort of unnecessary. I would have gotten the message by never receiving a phone call for an interview.
When I got back, my roommate who did have the experience required, heard the story as we sat by the pool and said he was going to apply for the job and then go in and mess with the guy (he had a job pretty much guaranteed to him by his old company once he graduated from graduate school so he had nothing to lose). He never did that of course, which is probably a good thing.
To this day, this is my worst interview. Probably even worse than the interview where a second interview was supposed to be scheduled for 4pm and they called me at 8am to see if I could make a 9:15am interview instead. I wanted the job, so I took the interview. I had been out the night before very late and I was a zombie at the interview and did not get the job. It was probably my terrible ability to recall facts and the fact I wanted to sleep and not talk that set me back. Regardless, I still don't know why this insurance guy called me into his office just to berate me for applying for the job. Who does that?