8 Minute Read

Interview Horror Stories from the Crypt

By Marissa Litty

The spooky season is here, and I don’t know about you but I’ve had my fall wreath up since October 1st. The Branchers got festive and brought out their best costumes last week to celebrate. Did you miss our creativity? Catch up with our Facebook and Instagram. Anyway, if you’ve ever taken the time to speak with a hiring pro, you’ve probably heard how some of the best scares happen in the interviewing seat. In honor of Halloween, here are some truly frightening and completely real stories…from actual hiring pros. Have you experienced any interview horror stories like these?

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Reddit is an amazing place for a laugh, solid advice, interesting information and good stories. It’s full of everyone from experts to…not so expert. These stories originally appeared there and have potentially been edited for brevity. You can read the original thread here!

The Uninvited Guest

“This 19 year old who apparently had previous work experience in customer service brought his mother into the interview with him. I politely questioned his mother as to the reasoning of her joining in on the interview and I was told, ‘I’m just making sure this is the right company for him and making sure you’re asking fair questions.’

I decided to roll with it (why not, this is the most interesting thing I’ve had all week) so I asked my first question.. she answered for him. I politely explained that the interviews I conduct are with the candidate only unless special accommodations are required. I was told, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’”


The average hiring process is now 22.9 days, which is about a 3.3 – 3.7 day increase since 2009. Luckily for the hiring manager in this story, the decision to continue with this candidate (candidates?) was fairly quick.

An Unfortunate Misunderstanding

“A woman was about 15 years older than I was and clearly didn’t understand that I was the one actually interviewing her for the job. This was an engineering position on my team making around $175K. She was very candid with me regarding her overall personality and actually put her purse on her lap at one point and started doing her makeup while we were talking. I guess she thought I was the secretary and she was making small talk before meeting with my boss?”


Sir Richard Branson has a trick to recruiting the right personality: He has an 85-year old taxi driver pick his arriving candidates up from the airport. Sound silly? Just wait. After loading and unloading the candidate’s bags, the driver takes the individuals to their destination. Once they arrive, Branson pulls off his mask, revealing that he was the driver all along and this was their first assessment. The candidate’s attitude and actions during the journey directly affects his hiring decision. That’s how important people skills and respect is to Branson and his company. In the above story, the candidate’s misunderstanding helped this interviewer skip a few steps in that test.

The Apparitional Assessment

“I interviewed an Italian girl who couldn’t speak English. She had only moved to the country a few weeks prior and I think this was her first interview but it was all so painful. Nearly every question was answered with ‘si, …**pause**…yes’. Even questions that you shouldn’t answer with a yes. I decided to be nice and go through all of my questions but it was ridiculous, like I nearly called an Italian speaker to come and translate for us.

After the interview I told our recruiter that she can’t speak English and we won’t be proceeding further. The recruiter told me that she had spent 40 minutes with her on the phone (in English) making sure she understood the role. When I asked her if the applicant said anything more than ‘si’ or ‘yes’, she looked a bit embarrassed.”


A horror story for any hiring manager… The relationship between hiring manager and recruiter requires an acute attention to process and a ton of listening skills. If the recruiter doesn’t take the time to understand a hiring manager’s needs, all the effort in finding a candidate will probably be wasted. Meanwhile, if a hiring manager doesn’t explain the role and accurately describe the necessary qualifications of a hire, the recruiter is left guessing. Not sure what happened in this case, but it seems as though the recruiter’s attempt to assess talent might have been a little lacking.

A Deceiving Tale

“We had an applicant for a teaching position who stated on his resume that he held a Master of Music degree from Yale.

When interviewing him, I asked what he thought of Woolsey Hall (Yale’s primary concert hall) and its renowned pipe organ. By his answer and facial expression, I could tell he’d never been there.

After he left, I called contacts at the university who confirmed that they’d never heard of him and no one by his name had received a degree there.”


When it comes to interview horror stories, this is all too real. Ask any HR professional, deception in hiring is nothing new. CareerBuilder surveyed 2,500 hiring managers to find that 56% have caught job candidates lying on their resume. This includes embellishing skills (62%) and taking liberties in describing previous responsibilities and roles (54%). Luckily, technology has helped make assessing candidates for skills a whole lot easier. Honestly, this hiring pro asked all the right questions before that was even necessary.

It’s #Halloween! Check out these scary and REAL #hiring stories: Click To Tweet

HR pro or candidate, it’s hard not to cringe at these interview horror stories. Do you have any cringeworthy moments in your career? Tell us about them on our Twitter @RedBranch!