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  • ElsnerHR

When Interview Disaster Strikes

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

Interviewing is always a challenge but occasionally things will go sideways. Here are a few of the more amazing interview disaster scenarios I’ve seen over the years. Please share your stories in the comments!

Just a few weeks ago, I had a job candidate who was scheduled for an interview at a company that experienced a power outage. They rescheduled for a different day, no big deal! Another recent situation arose when an interviewer had a medical emergency.

Unfortunately, nobody at the company contacted me or the candidate to let us know. The candidate had traveled from out of town and taken time off work to attend the interview, only to arrive and have no one there. The lack of communication was enough of a turnoff that she decided not to reschedule.The next one also has a medical angle. My candidate was lined up for several panel interviews at a hospital, and during one of the breaks, they were taking her to lunch. When they walked out to the car, however, the candidate tripped and fell in the parking lot and hit her head. She thought she was fine, but they thought they better have it checked out so they took her to the emergency room of the hospital that she was interviewing with! This interview disaster had a happy ending: She ended up getting a job offer, because the hiring manager was impressed with the poise and humor she displayed in a very awkward situation.

A number of years ago, I had candidate who was going to meet with a company for a first interview. The night before, he was holding his toddler on his lap, and she threw her head back and hit him in the mouth, giving him a swollen lip. He called me to tell me, because there was no way the interviewers weren’t going to notice. I contacted the HR vice president, who was making the final decision, to let him know the situation. He had a good sense of humor, and they teased him about his lip from the moment he walked in the door. Best of all, he got the job.

Of course, wardrobe malfunctions are always a potential source of interview disaster. I once met a candidate at a coffee shop for a pre-interview, and he had just spilled his cup of coffee on his white shirt. He immediately pointed it out to me, and we had a good laugh. As with the swollen lip in the previous example, acknowledging that there was no way to hide it was a smart strategy.

I’ll end with a personal wardrobe-malfunction story that happened to me years ago. I was going for an interview, wearing a pantsuit and when I got out of the car, I realized that the zipper on the side had broken. Talk about awkward, taking a tour of the facility with my hand covering up the gap in my pants. (There was no way I was going to acknowledge that!)

In the comments: What’s the biggest interview disaster you’ve experienced as a job candidate or hiring manager?

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