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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Describe the worst job interview you've ever taken part in

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isaacdlyman profile image
Isaac Lyman

I'm sure I've told this story before, it gets funnier to me every time.

The interview was to work on a very small web services team for the Chemistry department at my university. It was an absolute mess from start to finish.

  • Their office was the most depressing physical location I've ever been in. An old, musty university basement with bare walls and sketchy fluorescent lighting. Basically a dungeon.
  • They'd printed out several pages of interview questions. Like, an intimidating stack of paper. Most of the questions had acronyms I'd never heard of. To this day I think I would fail that interview.
  • They asked my thoughts on Python. I said in my experience it was a little slow, pretty good scripting language though. (This was 2010.) They said it wasn't slow, it was one of the fastest ones. Still not sure what they were talking about.
  • The hiring manager FELL ASLEEP halfway through the interview. His employee had to complete it without him.
  • A day or two after the interview they sent me a one-line email response. It said "We cannot hire you because you do not know much about the Internet."

Dodged a bullet, I guess?

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bhupesh profile image
Bhupesh Varshney 👾

Jesus christ, this had me rolled over 🤣
Thanks for sharing

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nickytonline profile image
Nick Taylor

The entire company interviewed me. It was a startup years ago, but still, nine people interviewing you at the same time asking you questions non-stop at a roundtable was rough.

Two Power Rangers putting there hands on their heads as if to say "No!"

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rbkolm profile image
Richard B Kolm

The "entire company" interview should be classified as a form of abuse or torture. I also had one of those. Big conference table with 8 to 10 people at a time, people coming and going, me on the long side in the middle getting whiplash trying to see who was talking and how the senior people were reacting to answers. After a while everybody was grinning a bit, and it was funny but I felt like a zoo animal. No feedback, no followup, classic ghosting. Over 3 people at one time is a waste unless its a presentation or something.

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jfbiswajit profile image
Biswajit Biswas

Similar happened to me

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jessesbyers profile image
Jesse Smith Byers

I showed up for an interview and was asked to wait in an otherwise-empty waiting room. The secretary went back and told the hiring manager I had arrived. He walked into the waiting room, and scanned the entire room looking for his applicant, not seeming to notice that I was sitting right in front of him. He then asked the secretary where Jesse was. It was immediately clear that he was not expecting a female applicant.

I can barely remember the details of the actual interview - the interviewer seemed disinterested, didn't ask me very many questions.

In my eyes the interview was over before it had even started - I did not belong there.

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brense profile image
Rense Bakker

I had a job interview once for a junior PHP role (that didnt mention anything about multi-lingual support) and one of the question was how I would deal with chinese characters in my code. I explained that I didn't have any hands on experience dealing with chinese characters and that I would probably search stackoverflow for the best way to deal with the problem. They indicated they wanted a better answer and I panicked and said I would probably look for a library to deal with special characters. This made it even worse. They then went on a rant about how libraries are bad and that they only used code that they wrote themselves. They didnt go as far as calling me stupid, but their contempt for me as a developer was oozing through the (very tiny) room when they said goodbye. To this day I am happy that they didnt hire me. I consider it the best thing that ever happened to me 😂

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ismaestro profile image
Ismael Ramos

So if the have to validate a phone number for example, they do their own library yup.

Yes, the best thing of that interview was that they didn't hire you xD

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brense profile image
Rense Bakker

And the best part is, after 12 years, they still only offer their application in Dutch, English and German 😂

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joshpuetz profile image
Josh Puetz

A few years ago a now well known company insisted on flying me out to San Fransisco to interview even through I was interviewing for a remote position...and then proceeded to have 4 out of the 6 hours be remote interviews over Zoom. As in: I sat in a conference room at their headquarters and the remote employees that would have been on me team dialed in. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Lunch was a one hour session with two people from HR (this is one of the sessions that wasn't over zoom). They brought me lunch and a drink: I was specifically told I could not leave the office. I was encouraged to "make smalltalk" so they could "judge my personality" 🤨

The final interview of the day was with the recruiter, was was determined to know what my desired salary was. I didn't want to give her a number first, which kind of my thing:

She threatened to withhold reimbursement for the airfare and hotel unless I gave her an exactly salary requirement! It was...tense. We ended up agreeing I wasn't a good fit for the company right there and then.

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jeremyf profile image
Jeremy Friesen

Wow…and I have visions of some kind of stand-off. Corporate beige/grey a blur in the background. The "showdown" music of a Western plays as Josh and HR stare at each other.

(And that is some shady-ass behavior from that organization to withhold reimbursement; tells you far more than you ever need know.)

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jeremyf profile image
Jeremy Friesen

Interview started in March, final round was in late July, and I didn't hear back until mid-September. And one of the requirements of the last round of interview was that my current supervisor was a required reference.

I was fortunate in that my supervisor was very understanding and gave a good reference. But I can also imagine a case where an under-represented person applied for this position and that final requirement either had them withdraw or exposed them to reprisals at their current work.

I gave the hiring committee feedback, as well as their supervisor. I encouraged them to advocate for change as I knew their personal aspirational values aligned with DEI initiatives.

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graciegregory profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

I once interviewed for a marketing job at small design agency. The interview was with the Creative Director/owner, who looked me up and down the moment I entered the room, and pretty clearly didn't like the (professional) outfit I was wearing and seemed to obviously have decided based on my appearance that I wasn't going to get the job.

The proceeding 15 minutes were spent quizzing me about the life and times of visual artists he liked — which had 0 to do with the position. When I was mid-sentence answering one of his questions, he called for his assistant, asking if the other candidate was there yet because he was "ready for her". His assistant escorted the next candidate in and he began asking her questions before he even said goodbye, thank you, or anything to me. They also had asked me to take my shoes off (which were brand new) which they hadn't done to the other candidate so I had to scramble to put them back on to leave.

Later that day, they emailed me asking me to complete a video project for the role. I was early-career and naive at the time so I completed the assignment but never heard from them again. I'm pretty sure he just wanted to laugh at whatever I sent him.

I get steamed just thinking about it.

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steveblue profile image
Stephen Belovarich • Edited

Oh, so many bad experiences to chose from. Which is the worst? That’s hard to pinpoint, but I would have to say driving to Beverly Hills to be charged parking (w/o validation) only to be greeted by two developers who didn’t really even introduce themselves much less give me any context for their positions, but they did offer a desk I could sit at.

The two developers had a compouter waiting, logged in. They wanted me to code a feature of an app, but didn’t bother putting an IDE on this computer. They watched me stumble, download an IDE, try to install it, and fail (lack of permissions). Yeah that’s right, you heard me, they watched me, over my shoulder the entire time. When they could finally resolve the permissions, I had to figure out the directory structure of an app, then code against it, in 30 minutes. Something told me at the time nobody at the office knew front end, which at the time of my career appeared more like a curse than a blessing.

Then there was the time Amazon flew me to headquarters. I stayed in a nice hotel, I thought it must be nice because I recognized basketball players staying there. The next day, I interviewed all day long, multiple rounds of technical interviews increasing in difficulty, but along the way, thought I performed well. I flew home from Seattle, waited a week to be told I didn’t get the job because of one point. One point? Really? The Amazon recruiter said he’d never seen it before and if I had earned one more point on their test, I would have had an offer.

I’m sure I have repressed so many bad experiences.

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bhupesh profile image
Bhupesh Varshney 👾 • Edited
  • Interview was supposed to last 30 minutes
  • First few minutes, a bunch of questions asked about my knowledge, stack etc
  • in the same call, I was asked to build a functional API. Note that by now only 15 mins or so are remaining.
  • I start building it, couldn't complete. Was asked to take it as a take home assignment and submit whenever complete.
  • I spend the same night completing it, send them a link to a public repo
  • No reply for 2 days. I remind both the HR and the guy who took the interview. Again a week has passed no response
  • Got ghosted pretty bad. Now take home assignments are hard for me to complete unless they are quick to build
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noriller profile image
Bruno Noriller • Edited

Hey, you asked...

Even though it was for a internship so long ago, I still remember to this day.
It would be a "group interview" with a few candidates, the moment the "boss" came and started greeting each one, the time he shook my hand, I could see his disgust with me.
The whole time he would ask each and everyone questions, hear the answers and add to it... except for me, for me... his assistant ended up doing most answers and listening while he played on his phone when it was my turn. Could be just me, but I believe it got awkward to everyone. Obviously, didn't get the internship while everyone else, or almost that got it.

But why stop at only one, right?

A more recent one, now online... the interviewer asked, and I would say how I would fit on what they are looking for and all. The interview seemed "normal" until the end, when the interviewer, as if talking to a hidden camera said something along the lines of "Well, as you said, it seems you're not a fit, so thank you for your time, bye.".

One still fresh was that after passing through all of the steps, challenges, talking to everyone, my "feedback" was from a "no-reply" email as generic as a first interaction one. I insisted on a feedback call as stated on that email, after much trouble I got the "feedback" that they really liked me, but they were actually looking for someone more senior, probably with 10-15 years of experience (I have 5).

BTW... did I mention I have a cleft lip and speech impediment?

Well... the last one is that I even gave a heads up that I have a speech impediment. In the interview, many times they brought up about how I communicate with my peers and all that, I said the ways I make sure it's not a problem, and finally after the interview they said something on the line of "well, I can see how it would affect communication on the team... so thank you for your time, but we won't continue from here."

I probably have some more that I don't remember, and probably will have more in the future...
Still looking, but sometimes thinking on giving up...
Some of those companies have whole pages on how inclusive they are... OMHO: bullshit.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

How about the time I interviewed for a PHP role and they passed me over because apparently I didn't mention I knew PHP, despite having done a complete technical inteview?

Or the time I got left in a meeting room for an hour because they forgot about me and the company were going on a trip? I only got out of there by sheer luck.

Or the time I got phoned up for feedback on the interview process because apparently I'd impressed them in person and had been their second choice - and the feedback I gave was, "you never interviewed me, you turned me down before it got that far."

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

I don't think I have ever participated in a good job interview to be honest with you. Every time there's some rubbish question about QuickSort, palindromes, or whatever, completely unrelated to the task I'm supposed to actually do once I start. Then there's the usual idiotic questions about SOLID programming. The worst ones though are the "test monkey" interviews, where they send you a link to some website asking you 100 dumb questions, giving you 60 minutes to finish. The latter ones I just tell; "Thx guys, but I'm good. Good luck with the hiring though", as I smile and marks their emails as spam ...

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auroratide profile image
Timothy Foster • Edited

Lots of stories from the interviewee perspective here, so how about one from an interviewer perspective? It was my first time conducting a technical interview and going in I thought I had a game plan but totally forgot it all as soon as I walked into the door.

I forgot to introduce myself (didn't even give my name!), asked a data-structure question about Minecraft (never do that; not everybody knows what that even is!), and the rest I blocked out of my memory (thankfully!). It was good that I was not alone interviewing, and my more-experienced pair made the overall process better for the interviewee, and he gave me valuable feedback after it was over.

Learned a lot that day!

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aneeqakhan profile image
Aneeqa Khan

Once I had interview in chinese firm, in first round two people interviewed me and right after (one hour long) first round, second round started and it was with their chinese CEO. He didnt understand English and I didnt know Chinese. He called his translator from China on Skype. 😄
In short, it was a mess. Skype call was getting disconnected I had to repeat things hundred of times. I end up getting the job offer but many things were wrong about them so I didnt join.

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foresthoffman profile image
Forest Hoffman

Oh jeez...

I was referred to a company by a previous colleague of mine. I sent in my CV, went through a few screenings and finally spoke with the hiring manager. They were very impressed up until they asked what my compensation expectations were. Considering my many years of experience with the exact stack they were hiring for, I shared my expectations (which were on the low end for that kind of position). Their tone IMMEDIATELY changed to very condescending and rude. "ahem well for someone of your...'experience'...you would be making a lot less than that", was the first thing out of their mouth. After a bit of a back and forth, they wanted to have an in-person interview.

I should have declined, but I thought by showing what I know I could change their mind. The interview was 5-6 people each asking me varying levels of whiteboarding questions. That said, all of the employees that interviewed me were nice!

Then came the hiring manager, the same one I spoke with over the phone. They asked me several standard questions and then said they would reach out with an answer after speaking with the team.

I got back to my car, and about 2 minutes after leaving the building I got an email telling me that I didn't get the position. At the time, I was frustrated that my time was wasted. But that was several years ago, so now it's a funny cautionary tale! I dodged a huge bullet. I would have been miserable working with that manager. They were obviously being petty, childish, and just looking to bump their interview quota.

Takeaways:

  • Red flag #0: "our staff intentionally take a lower wage, because they like working here" (yes, the manager actually said that to me 🤮)
  • Red flag #1: being told what I'm worth (it speaks to their inability to bring in or maintain good talent)
  • Red flag #2: the interviews with the team were entirely whiteboarding questions (especially ones that weren't even remotely related to the work I was supposedly being hired for)
  • Red flag #3: everyone but the manager was dressed business-casual (their personal presentation matched their unprofessional behavior, so at least they were consistent)
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aminmansuri profile image
hidden_dude

If I went to a company and everyone was dressed in anything more than business-casual I wouldn't want to work there.

But a lot of my experience is West Coast, and I'm not applying to law firms.

Timeless DEV post...

Git Concepts I Wish I Knew Years Ago

The most used technology by developers is not Javascript.

It's not Python or HTML.

It hardly even gets mentioned in interviews or listed as a pre-requisite for jobs.

I'm talking about Git and version control of course.

One does not simply learn git