Hot, Hot, Hot! (from Rob Sutherland)
In the mid 80s, a headhunter found me a good lead for a coding position at a (now-defunct) auto manufacturer. When I showed up to the headhunter's office, a very large and very scary looking woman took me out to the cafeteria so she could smoke during the interview. Different times, the 80s.
I could tell right away that she wasn't impressed with me. She lit up a cigarette, blew a cloud of smoke across the table, picked up my résumé, looked at it, grunted, flipped the page, grunted again, and tossed the résumé to the middle of the table. After another grunt, she glared at me and said "get a haircut!"
I was trying to come up with something to say other than "WTF," when I noticed my résumé catch fire. She yelped and started flailing her arms. I instinctively picked up a glass of water and dumped it on the flaming resume, the ashtray, and her.
I didn't get the job.
The Last Interview (from Mark)
I went into an interview for a local "high tech" company based on a recruiter saying it was rapidly growing and opening into new markets. Sounded good in principle. Waiting for the interview to start, I had a chance to read through their recruiting packet and noted it was hard as hell to find a reference to their product line, and their "benefits" weren't all that different from what you might get working for Safeway. The first interview was with HR and the questions ranged from "on this list of 30 things, pick the three you're best at" to "define 'competition.'" I quickly figured out that she was more interested in getting back to her coffee than assessing me as a worthy candidate, so I upped my chances to be hired by answering all questions in the shortest time with the "best" answers. She loved me.
The next interview was with a potential peer. He was a "shooter," emphasizing important points like an hour for lunch with a cock of the thumb on his gun hand. He told me he was there to explain the intricacies of the job and make me more comfortable, but him sitting so far forward on the edge of the chair made me anything but comfortable. He was clearly scared I might rock the boat, so I again upped my chances for being hired by presenting myself as one who was more than willing to listen to the status quo in the first few weeks and do what I could to integrate into what was clearly becoming a rather boring cubicle existence. I also decided I was never going to take the job.
The third interview was with the hiring manager. He was cool. I liked him immediately and we chatted as humans. He asked me what I thought of the hiring brochure and I said, "screen doors, chickens, or high tech, I have no idea what you actually do." When asked about benefits I said I might get better at Toys R Us. He wasn't offended — he thought it was funny. I liked him more. He asked for a single adjective to describe the environment, and offered, "conservative." With nothing to lose, I said, "stultifying". He laughed again. Then I launched into my brief soliloquy: "I get the sense that you really want to fix this company, but to do so, you need to be relieved of your day to day responsibilities of managing the group you have. So you're out looking for someone that can run circles around the team members you have and get them to rise to the occasion while you spend time on grander improvements. If the previous interviewer is an example of the standards of this group, I am your guy as I bet a week in I can be many times more productive than they are and get them scared. If this is true, I am interested in this job."
"But," I continued, "if you aren't totally committed to sticking it out and really making changes in this company when you bail I won't last 10 minutes as they will eat me alive as soon as you are gone, and I don't want this job. So my question to you: are you truly committed to change and do you believe it's possible in this company or are you just bullsh–tting me and yourself?" He said that was the end of the interview and he'd call me the next day for a follow up.
And he did call the following day. At 6:30AM. The message was short.
"Thanks, man. I've been up all night and driving into work today, the answer to your last question came to me. I just quit. Thanks for the interview."
A Wrinkle in Time (from another Mark)
I interviewed with one of these companies that sells wholesale amounts to regular consumers. You know, the kind of place you'd go for a 25lb bag of cornflakes. On my résumé I have past experience listed in years rather than months.
As it turns out, one of the interviewers had worked at the same company I was coming from. He'd never been promoted for the six years he worked there and he was still carrying a grudge. He asked me how long I'd been a manager level three, so I answered "one and a half years."
"Ahh, because on your résumé it says it's been two years."
"Right, late 2003 to early 2005."
"That's two years," he responded defiantly. It was clear he thought I was a liar.
"Well, yes, 2003 and 2005 would be two years apart if-"
"They are two years apart."
"But in my case, it was late in 2003 that I was promoted."
"And the years you worked as a manager level three?"
"Late 2003 through early 2005." He was testing me.
"And you were in that position how long?"
I was getting irritated. "About a year and a half."
He went on to ask the same question (phrased differently) about ten times, until finally I explained it in even more detail. "Between December 31 and the following day, there is a difference of one day, though the year is different between the two dates." I continued the explanation as though I was talking to a first grader.
They requested a second interview, but I never responded.