Job Interview Horror Stories

Thanks to ever-shrinking budgets, exponentially expanding workloads and a dizzying assortment of seasonal flu strains, the office is a scary place to be these days.

But job seekers making the interview rounds have their own horrors -- and I don't mean hoping they land an offer before their unemployment checks run out.

Although most HR folks and hiring managers know how to conduct themselves in a professional manner, you don't have to dig too deep to unearth those eerie tales of interviewers behaving badly.

Some hiring managers yell, beat their chests and berate their candidates for no apparent reason. Others show up stumbling drunk or otherwise in need of 30 days at The Betty Ford Clinic. Still others confuse the office with their private powder room and do things they probably wouldn't even do in front of their spouse.

Tory Joohnson

Herewith are some of the creepiest interviewer phenomena candidates recently shared with me:

Manager of a Thousand Faces

A number of readers e-mailed me spooky tales of hiring managers who seemed perfectly polished during the initial interview or phone screen only to later morph into a seething, fire-breathing demon without warning.

Debra Yergen from Yakima, Wash., can attest to that.

After three interviews for a technical writing position with a small manufacturing firm, Yergen received a job offer, she said. Because she'd have to relocate across the state, she asked for a few days to mull it over.


In the interim, Yergen said, the hiring manager, who'd been nothing but charming during the string of interviews, left her an unsettling phone message, "yelling and ranting at me about the fact that I needed to call him and accept the job immediately."

"About an hour later," Yergen continued, "he called and left me another voice mail literally begging me to take the job, like a kid would beg his parents for keys to the family car. All this inappropriate emotion was a huge red flag to me, considering that I hadn't even accepted the position, let alone made a mistake in it."

Not surprisingly, Yergen turned down the job.

Invasion of the Job Snatchers

Another alarming species of hiring manager is those who have no intention of filling the position advertised, not with anyone HR sends them, anyway.

Paul Riddell, a Web designer from Dallas, said he had one of those close encounters.

Freshly laid off, he scored an interview with the head of HR at a midsize software design firm and aced it.

"She admitted that if it were just up to her, she'd hire me right then and there," Riddell said.

But when Riddell met the manager who would be directly supervising the position, things didn't go quite as smoothly. Upon entering the room, Riddell said, the manager told him she had no intention of hiring him for the job and that there was nothing he could say to change her mind.

"She said that she was keeping the position empty until her son graduated from high school in three weeks, so she could hire him," Riddell said. Then, he added, "She sighed and complained about how HR had foisted this interview upon her."

Needless to say, Riddell didn't get the job.

Attack of the Killer Toenails

Some interviewers have manners rivaling those of Jack Nicholson's character in "The Shining" (in case you haven't seen the horror classic, that's not a good thing).

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