The worst job interview I’ve ever had

Interviews are funny things. Trying to remember the very best bits about yourself to regurgitate in front of strangers in a coherent manner. Not knowing what tricky questions you might get asked but remaining a picture of calm. Showing your easy-to-work-with friendly side as you feel eyes on you and pens writing down whatever’s coming out of your mouth.

For those of you lucky enough to have a job, you might not remember the horror of going into the unknown, of being asked what your strengths and weakness are, of trying to politely drink your glass of water with trembling hands. It's like food poisoning – it’s funny afterwards. But any fellow job-seekers will know that, while you’re going through the process of interviews, the fear is deep and the fear is real.

But I’ve never had any particularly scarring interviews. I was actually beginning to warm to them. Apart from the rejection phone call afterwards, they weren’t so bad. In fact, I’d even managed to laugh in some of them.

But then something happened. Earlier this week I had the weirdest, worst interview ever. I struggled with whether I should write about it in case a potential employer reads it. But I don’t want to censor myself. I don’t believe it was so much a reflection on me (I hope), rather just an unfortunate situation. So, get comfy, because it’s story time!

On Wednesday this week, I turned up at the door of an agency in central London. I hadn't spoken to the man who would be interviewing me, and I didn’t even know exactly what I was interviewing for. Nevertheless, I thought I didn’t have anything to lose by going.

I turned up at quarter to the hour, fifteen minutes early. The office manager opened the door and, looking confused, told me to go away and have a coffee, and come back a bit later on because I was too early. So off I went, and came back at a more ‘acceptable’ time.

“He’s had to run to a last-minute meeting, can you come back tomorrow?”

I try to trust my instincts as much as possible, but in this case I went against my better judgement and returned the following day.

I sat waiting (this time I’d been upgraded to a chair in the office), and the guy interviewing me turned up five minutes late and kept me waiting while he talked to his colleagues for another ten.

The whole office was one long room. I looked around at everyone working at their desks, wondering why not one person looked up at me and smiled. They all looked miserable, which should have been another indicator.

After snapping at the office manager, the guy eventually took me to his “office”, which was two chairs at the end of the room. He asked me about my degree, which quickly turned to the topic of his degree. He said, “I found English really easy in school. It’s probably because my grandfather was a playwright, so it’s in the genes.”

He told me he’s reading Shantaram, mainly because it reminds him of being in, I don’t know, some place I’ve never heard of.

“So you like reading articles? What do you read?” he asked.

“The Guardian.”

“Oh, so you’re a lefty then. Most northerners are.”

I didn’t have a chance to reply before he started talking again.

“So you came out of uni, you’ve done a three-month internship and now you do freelance work.”

I was too amazed by him to realise he hadn’t even read through my CV, because I think he thought I’d never had a job before.

“You’ve been out of uni three years now. I’d be interested to know why people don’t want you.”

He worked out that I’ve been unemployed for ten months, and then proceeded to tell me there’s a six-month window of unemployment before it starts to look dodgy to employers. He knew this because he’d been a recruitment consultant, too, of course. As well as a ‘writer’, as you may have guessed.

I told him I was doing some freelance work.

“That’s the other thing,” he said. “Employers don’t trust freelancers. They can’t adapt to working office hours.”

He said the best he could do was offer me an internship. After he’d had a think about it, obviously.

“You have to love travel if you want to work here. If you don’t, it’ll become apparent really quickly”.

Darn it, that’s me out of the question then.


  1. Ha!

    Interview #47 (c May 1993):

    Enter. "Please arrange these coloured cards in any order you like." Three questions about my CV. "Now please rearrange the coloured cards in any order you like." End of interview.

    I still have no freaking idea what went on in that room.

    1. Hahaha what!? That's so funny. It sounds fun, though - who doesn't love rearranging coloured cards?

  2. PS: remember, an interview is a two-way thing. It may not feel like it, but as well as them working out if you're right for them, *you're working out if they're right for you*. And from the sound of the, uh, person who interviewed you, you're well shot of that company.

  3. That's just awful. I've had my fair share of bad interviews, and I've had one that was similar to yours. The guy was making all kinds of wonderful assumptions about me without even letting me talk. My favorite was, "Oh, I see we're 15 minutes away from you. That's a really far drive. You'd probably get tired of it after a while and stop coming in. I don't know if this job is for you."

    Aside from the fact that every job I've ever had was at least 20-30 minutes away from me, it was amazing to see someone mentally hire me, start me, watch me come in, and just decide I didn't want to come in anymore. Like he was just mentally living my life for me.

    1. Haha that's amazing! What a genius. People are strange.

  4. Oh my god what an arsehole! Screw him and his crappy internship! I had a similar experience a few weeks ago with someone who clearly was just on a power trip, some people are just dicks x